District presents possible commencement ceremony options


Prasham Jobanputra

Aidan Sullivan shakes hands with principal Pete Nicholson during the 2019 commencement ceremony at North Penn High School.

LANSDALE – On Tuesday evening the North Penn School District held a community wide forum to discuss possible options for graduation for the class of 2020. High school principal Mr. Pete Nicholson, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Todd Bauer, and Superintendent, Dr. Curt Dietrich headlined the discussion on North Penn School District’s facebook live, hosted by Mr. Bob Gillmer via NPTV on Youtube. They first gave their appreciation to all of our first responders and medical workers on the front lines while also wishing families stay safe during this different time. 

Their objective for the evening was to discuss options for commencement and answer questions from the class of 2020 and their families. Some of the main goals listed by North Penn for a successful ceremony were, crossing the stage at Crawford Stadium’s 50-yard line in cap and gown to receive their diploma, each graduate being recognized by name, and having an opportunity for this to be witnessed by friends and loved ones in person for a photo and video memory in a fun, festive atmosphere. The school district realizes they are under control of the state of Pennsylvania in the process of reopening Pennsylvania. They are examining their options while also following guidelines provided by the state.

Four specific possible plans were brought up for discussion.


Option 1 is an all virtual graduation. This option would have to result in families and students realizing an in person graduation would not be able to be held. This would still be hosted on the scheduled day for commencement, June 11th. The major con with this first option are the goals provided by North Penn School District would not be met. 

Option 2 is a segmented approach later in the summer. The major needs are a dramatic change in permissible large group gatherings from the state.This would result in differing amounts of students graduating at one time. For example, only 250 students would graduate at a time using this option. Some of the district’s goals would be met with this option but would result in not all graduates participating at the same time, would not take place in Crawford Stadium, and a date would be able to be set yet. 

Option 3 is a full class offsite graduation when possible. The major needs are again a dramatic change in permissible large group gatherings, acceptance that we will not graduate in Crawford Stadium. A venue that could hold 1,000 plus graduates and their guests would be needed. Graduates would be able to graduate together which is a key goal for North Penn. Some major cons would result in an unknown timing of this offsite graduation, likely far in the future. Not all graduates may not be available for this option and some goals would not be met.

Option 4 is a hybrid option. Individual presentation of diploma for all graduates leading up to June 11. Seniors and their families would schedule times to drive into Crawford Stadium and around the track. Time slots could be coordinated by students so they could participate with friends.All the individual families and students would get their own time to receive their diploma, while still being in Crawford Stadium. This would lead up to June 11th, where a video of each graduate will be displayed with their name being read and followed by a virtual “turning of the tassel” which would be arranged where students could still be officially graduated. 

A coordinated time following the online ceremony would be planned in the community to celebrate the class of 2020. This in-person celebration would be planned for late summer, fall, or in 2021. If there were a problem with rain or weather where they would not be able to have one of the days for scheduled students, they would have a contingency plan to reschedule students. They are working on a plan to provide tents or overhang if there were rain. Students in option 4 would not be out of their car more than two minutes. This option was most favored in the comments of the Youtube and Facebook live and resulted in students wanting to have a vote in the given options. This option would take weeks of preparation and coordination with many departments of North Penn staff. 


Yards signs have been made and will be delivered to families of the class of 2020. The names of seniors will be displayed on the NPHS marquee and will be displayed earlier than the typical schedule following graduation. Senior Awards will be presented virtually and those award contents will be mailed to the award winners. Class Night is in the works with the senior class students officers working with the North Penn administration to find a future in-person option. 

One of the major questions posed was the postponement of graduation after June 11th. The main problem with this is having to get out of the governor mandated yellow zone in southeastern Pennsylvania and having a  major change in social distancing rules with large gatherings. To get out of the yellow zone from the guidelines of the state, Southeastern Pennsylvania, of which the region North Penn is included, would need to be under 400 cases of Covid-19 while we are currently over 2,600 cases. 


Caps and gowns will be delivered to North Penn High School and they are working on a plan to distribute them. This process will be following social distancing guidelines while also giving the chance to return Chromebooks and textbooks. Yearbooks will be delivered to individual families homes. The tradition of seniors revisiting their elementary schools once they receive their caps and gowns will be permissible when the state allows it under social distancing, if not resulting during a break in the future. 

The final decision for graduation will be decided after an evaluation of input from students and families while also taking in guidelines needed to be followed from the state. They did not mention when a decision will be made but noted it will be soon. A reply of the evening’s presentation can be found on the NPTV YouTube channel.