NORTH SMITHFIELD – As officials across the state search for ways to acknowledge graduating seniors while practicing distancing guidelines, one group of parents in northern Rhode Island has found a unique way for the community to honor the 2020 class.

The North Smithfield High School Class of 2020 will hold a parade through town on Thursday, June 4 starting at Pacheco Park at 6 p.m.

The event, promoted by the students’ parents, aims to provide a way to show support for those unable to attend graduation services.

District officials announced earlier this month that the school will hold a commencement for this year’s class of 120 graduates, with a drive-in style service on the campus on Friday, June 5. Senior awards will be held virtually on Wednesday, June.

But the events provide little opportunity for friends and relatives who might normally attend the graduation to celebrate the class. So far, it appears only the graduates themselves and immediate family members will have a space in a grid painted on the high school athletic fields.

“Plans for the North Smithfield High School senior graduation are developing nicely, the details of which will be shared with our students and their families,” noted Supt. Michael St. Jean this week. “For the rest of the community so curious about what these plans may entail, we can say that this year of COVID graduation ceremony will be highly memorable, yet very safe.”

But the evening before graduation, when the seniors would typically “walk the halls” – a Northmen tradition that sees seniors visit the town elementary school donning their caps and gowns – the class will instead be on the road, waving out of car windows along a parade route through town.

“As we have all been affected and continue to be affected by the
COVID-19 pandemic, some groups are affected in more ways than one, and the North Smithfield High School Class of 2020 is one of them,” noted a flyer for the event. “They have missed out on spring sports, senior nights, awards nights, final chorus trip, senior class trip, walking the halls, proms, traditional graduations and much more.”

The parade, parents note, is an effort to make sure the students don’t miss out on every rite of passage.

Those who would like to acknowledge the seniors are encouraged to make posters, get balloons or “just be there with a smile and a wave of support.”

The graduates will leave from the Slatersville park at 6 p.m. and travel
up Main Street, turning onto Green Street, and then right onto Great Road. The caravan will then complete the circle at the former Halliwell Elementary School, before continuing along Great Road to the Beef Barn.

At the restaurant, parade participants will turn right onto Greenville Road, then left onto Grange Road and left onto Providence Pike. They’ll complete the circle at North Smithfield Elementary School before heading to the middle school, and finally, finishing their route at the high school parking lot.

Parade attendees are reminded  follow all social distancing guidelines set forth by the Rhode Island  Department of Health.

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