Sixth Form traditions in question during “coronacation”

An empty commencement stage in 2017 – photo by Mr. George Scariano

As students follow the governor’s “stay at home” order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, only one class does not have a follow-up year to look forward to. 

The Class of 2020 is grappling with the distinct possibility that all of the exciting activities they took for granted at the end of their year will be canceled. Few realized that March 12, 2020 would be their last day of “normal” high school and the last chance to imagine partaking in Sixth Form traditions. 

Transitioning to distance learning threatens Haverford’s most memorable Sixth Form rites of passage. No matter a student’s tenure, Sixth Formers every year look forward to passing down their rosettes, viewing their own caricatures, eating Dippin’ Dots, walking through the commencement gauntlet rather than forming it, and perhaps smoking cigars after graduation. In times of such uncertainty, the Sixth Form looks to the administration to provide clarity on the events to come.

Sixth Form Dean Mr. Daniel Keefe said,  “I think being sad about Dippin’ Dots makes you someone who recognizes that there’s a tradition you won’t be able to get back. It doesn’t make it any less personal for the Sixth Formers at Haverford who know it as tradition.”

“There is a sense of finality and a goodbye that this class isn’t going to be able to have that previous classes have had,” Mr. Keefe said. “And in many ways, this was the class that many teachers, not just myself, felt really has led through example and earned it.”

Perhaps the most anticipated formal social event is prom. Prom allows the upperclassmen to come together and display the significance of brotherhood. 

Señora Susanna Lambour, with her five years of experience as head of the prom committee, said, “There are so many form-wide and cross-form friendships at Haverford that happen through sports, clubs for whatever reason that it’s really nice that there’s a place to see it all come together.”

“We are going to try the best we can to create an experience for you guys sometime when we can all gather to give you that experience, with or without the tux,” Sra. Lambour said.

However, the exact date, whether it be toward the end of the academic year or in the summer, is not yet known.

Student Body President Vincent Scauzzo said, “I would say all the experiences I’ve had over the years, all the people I’ve met have on their own been enough to make it worthwhile, but the commencement ceremony to tie it in at the end, to not have that is pretty rough.”

“Until we get back together as a group, whether that’s this summer or at some point down the road, there’s not going to be closure.”

Student Council President Vincent Scauzzo ’20

“Until we get back together as a group,” Scauzzo maintained, “whether that’s this summer or at some point down the road, there’s not going to be closure.”

Headmaster Dr. John Nagl agreed with this assessment of closure. With each passing week, he noted that the possibility of a physical commencement ceremony at the close of the academic year becomes increasingly improbable. 

When considering a virtual graduation ceremony, Dr. Nagl said, “Is it better than nothing? I just don’t know.” 

Haverford continues to explore different avenues so that the Class of 2020 can have the ceremony they have earned. 

At the moment, “June 5th is the current date, but we’re also talking about July 10th or August 7th,” Dr. Nagl said. “The question is, will we be able to pull a thousand people together in a room?” 

The Class of 2019 walking through the Fifth Form graduation gauntlet – photo by Ann Glavin

In a worst-case scenario, Dr. Nagl said, “We will do a physical ceremony but it may be in June 2021. But my guess is it might mean even more to you then, but I don’t know.”

The fate of the Class of 2020’s rites of passage at the Haverford still lie in uncertainty. Despite all of the proactiveness, the school leaders and the Sixth Form are watching history unfold before their eyes.

Last Thursday morning, April 9, Dr. Nagl and Mr. Fifer called a Sixth Form meeting to provide updates on the status of Sixth Form and the end of the year plans. 

“We are relying on the governor to make the determination for us,” Dr. Nagl said. “It appears increasingly unlikely that we will get to resume school.”

Less than twenty-four hours later Governor Tom Wolf confirmed Dr. Nagl’s notion. Wolf announced on Twitter, “In order to keep as many Pennsylvanians as possible safe, schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.” 

Born into a post-9/11 world and facing the dawn of the coronavirus, the Class of 2020 knows sudden change, but will discover that these cataclysmic events will only foster new levels of leadership in America.  

“[The] quarantine is one of those defining moments in American society that we look back upon later and say, ‘From this moment things rapidly changed.’”

Sixth Form Dean Mr. Daniel Keefe

“It just speaks to how big this event that surrounds us right now,” Mr. Keefe said. “[The] quarantine is one of those defining moments in American society that we look back upon later and say, ‘From this moment things rapidly changed.’”

Author: Chris Hyland '20

Chris Hyland is a student in the journalism seminar. His personal narrative "Her Brown Eyes" won a silver key in the Philadelphia-Area Scholastic Writing Awards. His piece "'Senioritis' diagnosis irritates strong Sixth Form" was the cover story for the February issue of The Index. Chris is the captain of the hockey team and is also part of the CMP and Notables.