Like a thief, the coronavirus has stolen so much from so many this spring but let's not let it prevent us from giving our high school seniors a proper send-off. There are things about the coronavirus outbreak that we cannot control. Commencement for the graduating class of 2020 is not one of them. After all, they've earned it.

It is unlikely that New Bedford High School or the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School will hold formal commencement activities this year. Mayor Jon Mitchell tells me the logistics, given the current COVID-19 restrictions and the sheer number of students graduating, might make such events too difficult to stage. I disagree.

Where there is a will there is a way and local school officials should immediately begin exploring the possibilities.

The graduating class from Old Rochester Regional High School will get a proper send-off this year. The commencement has been rescheduled for August when all of this just might be a distant memory. Principal Michael Devoll tells me two committees have been established. One committee will plan for commencement activities that would be held should social distancing guidelines be relaxed. The second committee would plan for commencement with the current restrictions still in place. But either way, there will be a graduation ceremony. That's creative thinking and planning.

School officials in New Bedford and at GNB Voc-Tech should follow Devoll's lead. Planning should begin for a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020. Due to the current restrictions on gatherings, the ceremonies could be held outdoors as they normally are anyway. New Bedford Cable Access could broadcast the event to family members watching from home and graduating students could practice social distancing guidelines while crossing the stage to receive their diploma.

The times we are in are challenging. But we should rise to the occasion by challenging ourselves to reach higher to make it happen. After all, isn't that what we've been telling our students to do throughout their educational careers?

Dig deep and find a way to give our senior class a proper graduation.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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