Tarps meant to eliminate large crowds along fence lines

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Tarpaulin sheets that have been put up on the fences around Rome Free Academy Stadium are in conjunction with RFA graduation ceremonies Saturday and crowd-gathering restrictions due to COVID-19.

School district Superintendent Peter C. Blake today explained the reason for the tarps, relating to plans for six RFA graduation mini-ceremonies Saturday at the stadium with about 50 students at each ceremony plus two guests per student.

The tarp sheets' "purpose is because of the 150-maximum attendance requirement as set forth" in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive order regarding high school graduations, said Blake. "They were not a part of our original plan....However, we are required to follow the requests of the governor's office, our county and local governments, and the local police force."

In learning that "large crowds of people were planning to gather along the fence lines" for the graduation, added Blake, the school district was contacted by Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo's office and the Rome Police Department to "collaborate on a solution that would not cause conflict between police and community, and most importantly, not jeopardize the ceremony for the kids."

Blake commented "it's unfortunate that some people can't recognize that this is a ceremony for students and that we are required to follow many guidelines that are not normal." He added "doing anything other than what we are required to do would be a terrible example of decision-making as it could cause the whole thing to be shut down," noting recent issues with New Hartford High School's graduation ceremony attempts.

"I hope that our community can understand this and also make good decisions that do not jeopardize the graduation ceremony for the kids, the Class of 2020," Blake observed.

Blake also emphasized the graduation will be livestreamed on the school district's website "like it is every year for additional guests to be able to view the ceremony."

The tarp sheets will remain in place at RFA Stadium for the summer while a planned construction project is ongoing, said Blake.

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