The decision has been made to scrub the on-stage commencement exercises for the New Bedford High School Class of 2020. What a shame. And it didn't have to happen, either.

The Class of 2020 has had a roller coaster year in New Bedford thanks in part to the COVID-19 virus. Poor leadership at the top has made the journey even less memorable for these students, who have been forced to miss a portion of their senior year, the prom, and now their commencement. Many students were forced to leave their classrooms and lifelong friends behind without even a chance to say goodbye.

Superintendent Thomas Anderson’s office confirmed Tuesday that the New Bedford High School graduation ceremony planned for the night of August 13 at Paul Walsh Field has been canceled. And so the journey ends.

Other area districts, including Fall River, Bishop Stang, Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech, Old Rochester Regional, and the Global Learning Charter Public School still plan to proceed with their commencement exercises.

Anderson said conditions are not right to allow the commencement to go on as planned.

“Unfortunately, at this time I do not believe we should bring together a very large crowd of people," he said. Diplomas and yearbooks will be distributed next week by appointment.

New Bedford certainly has the space available at Walsh Field, located across the street from the high school, to conduct a commencement ceremony safely. It may have taken a little bit longer but it would be worth the time. These kids only pass this way once. Allowing our seniors to graduate in style is the least we can do for them after shortchanging them of so much of the senior experience.

It could have and should have been done. Shame on New Bedford for dishonoring the Class of 2020.

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 barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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