Graduation ceremony, June 2014. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement today that schools will not reopen this year was not entirely unexpected, but its finality dealt a crushing blow to members of the graduating class of 2020 and their teachers as well.

“My classmates and I are filled with disappointment,” Riverhead High School Class of 2020 president Jessica Murgolo said.

“We have worked for 13 years, and just when it was about to get fun, it was taken from us,” she said.

Riverhead schools were closed on Friday, March 13, the day after Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar declared a state of emergency in the Town of Riverhead. There were 28 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Suffolk County as of that date, and none known in the either the Town of Riverhead or the school district. Riverhead schools would never reopen, as the coronavirus outbreak rapidly expanded across the region.

“We are crushed. Our hearts break for our students who are missing out on everything Riverhead has to offer them, especially the class of 2020 who will miss the last quarter of their senior year along with numerous rites of passage associated with being a senior in high school,” Riverhead Central Faculty Association president Gregory Wallace said.

Class of 2020 homecoming parade float: the Wizard of Oz

“I am beyond upset that I cannot finish out high school with my best friends,” Murgolo said. “Every other graduating class has gotten to finish out school and have their prom and graduation. I am jealous of them.”

Murgolo said the students “understand this is what needs to happen to ensure everyone’s safety,” but it doesn’t really blunt the pain of having the rituals and traditions of senior year taken away.

Faculty members are “doing their level best to reach our students through virtual platforms,” Wallace said, but that cannot replace the face-to-face interaction that all of us long for.”

Some school districts are planning virtual graduation ceremonies, using social media and/or virtual reality software. Riverhead officials have been talking about options, according to both Wallace and Murgolo.

Riverhead Central School District Superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez did not respond to a request for comment.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.