Shelton HS seniors to celebrate graduation July 8

Photo of Brian Gioiele
The Shelton Board of Education offices.

The Shelton Board of Education offices.

Contributed photo

SHELTON — The high school’s Class of 2020 will walk the stage, in cap and gown, to get their diplomas in front of family and friends.

The Board of Education, in a virtual meeting Thursday, voted to set graduation for July 8, two days after the amount of people allowed at in-person graduations expands to 150. The rain date is July 9.

“This is as close to a traditional ceremony as you can get,” said interim Superintendent Beth Smith.

With 356 graduating seniors, the board’s ad hoc graduation committee presented a plan for three separate ceremonies — 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. — in the high school parking lot. Social distancing will be required.

At each one, there will be about 150 people, counting students and staff, for a ceremony featuring the grads marching in to a recorded version of Pomp and Circumstance, listening to speeches, then walking across the stage to be handed their diploma.

The students will then march off, returning to their family’s vehicle. One vehicle per student is allowed, and the family remains in the vehicle and watches the ceremony, similar to drive-in movies of old.

Board Chair Kathy Yolish praised the efforts of the ad hoc graduation committee, chaired by board member Mandy Kilmartin. The committee also includes fellow board member Amy Romano, Smith, Assistant Superintendent Ken Saranich, SHS Principal Kathy Riddle, high school teachers, PTO representatives and three students, all of whom had been elected by their peers.

“They accomplished this task within a span of three weeks,” said Yolish, “and we will now be able to hold a graduation in which the Class of 2020 will be celebrated and recognized in a very special way.”

“Our kids are getting a lot more than a lot of other towns,” said board member Kate Kutash, who joined in praising the ad hoc committee for its efforts “bending over backwards because the kids have lost out on so much this year.”

Kilmartin said while this is not a normal ceremony and not all are pleased, the graduation will meet the primary goal — allowing students to graduate with their friends as their families look on.

“It would also allow students to formally march in their caps and gowns, to take a seat, to listen to the speeches of their classmates, and to cross the stage in view of their friends and families to collect their diploma,” wrote Kilmartin in a letter to parents.

The plan also includes a professional photographer to take pictures of students as they receive their diplomas, and Kilmartin said the district is working to get the AV equipment needed to “ensure that everyone can see and hear everything from the comfort of their air-conditioned cars.”

Plans are also to livestream all three graduations on the NFHS network. The videos will then be compiled into one recorded ceremony that will be available for the class by the following week.

“We are still in the early phases of implementation but are continuing to work out the smaller details that will make this event as special and meaningful to our class of 2020 as possible,” said Kilmartin in her letter.

“By including our students in these decision-making processes, we have been able to incorporate all of (the) elements that are most important to them,” added Kilmartin. “I’m confident that, as our parents and our community rally together to support this event, we will be able to provide our students with the best experience possible.”