Governor Ned Lamont announced on Wednesday that his office will allow in-person graduation ceremonies beginning July 6. The state-authorized ceremonies are limited to outdoors venues and to no more than 150 people, according to Department of Education Commission Miguel Cardona.
Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser has decided instead to move forward with plans that will allow graduating seniors to walk across the stage on Friday, June 12.
“We have 127 in the graduating class, so that would be much like the NHL or NBA or MLB playing with no fans,” said Neviaser. “We plan to continue with the graduation that we have planned right now for June 12.”
He said that parents had expressed no interest in delaying the graduation beyond June 12.
“People really wanted to have that celebration to recognize their seniors, and then have kids move on to whatever their next step may be,” he said.
Instead, each graduate will have a designated time slot to walk across the stage and receive their diploma, according to an email from Principal Jim Wygonik sent on Wednesday, May 27.
“After running simulations, we have determined that we can honor 21 graduates per hour leaving ample time for each graduate to get out of their car, walk up on stage, receive their diploma, give families a moment to take some photos, and get back in their car and drive away,” said Wygonik.
Families are permitted one car per graduate; however, should a family need an additional car, they are instructed to email Wygonik in advance. Anyone attending is reminded to wear a mask and only leave their car at the appointed time.
“While it may not be traditional, this graduation will be special and memorable,” he said.
The one drawback to this type of graduation ceremony is that students are not able to graduate together as a class.
“That makes me angry because if we have a chance at doing a real graduation, and the governor says that we could do that, then I don’t understand why we wouldn’t be able to do that,” said Lyme-Old Lyme senior Emily Evers.
According to Evers, students at other schools have been able to celebrate traditional graduation ceremonies with a few adjustments. She would have liked for her school to offer the same option.
“Some other schools are doing a real graduation, just six feet apart, and I think that there could have been some other options [for us],” she said. “We could have looked further into maybe pushing it back to give us more of an authentic graduation.”
Lynn Porter, a Lyme resident and parent to a graduating senior, expressed similar sentiments, saying that they were only given two viable options: going house to house on a bus and handing out diplomas or having seniors walk across the stage in designated time slots.
“I am just disappointed that there’s other towns — and I don’t know for sure exactly how they’re doing it — but I heard that [families] are parking in their cars, so at least everybody’s in a parking lot together, or a field, and everybody gets to see each other graduate,” said Porter. “That’s the most important thing for these kids—for them to all be together.”
After years of schooling, Evers said that the proposed arrangement is a disappointment.
“If the rules were put in place, we should have trusted that these kids could have kept their distance and not celebrated and followed the rules that they could have graduated together,” said Evers. “I’m extremely disappointed; it’s a milestone you wait for from the day you start school.”
Annemarie LePard is a journalism student at Hofstra University and a summer intern at CT Examiner.