This week, the Branford Board Education released their plans for an altered graduation ceremony to be held in mid-June. Almost immediately, complaints from parents and some students flooded social media, and I received multiple emails with issues regarding the ceremony and timing.
Before writing this, I consulted with multiple town officials and had correspondence with multiple parents.
First, the decision is made with the Board of Education, East Shore Health and the police department. The major guiding force is the East Shore Health department. During a pandemic, they have the final say as to what can or cannot take place, as they interpret the Governors orders.
Why can’t there be a car parade?
There are 240 graduates in the class. That’s makes a very long and intrusive parade. The Branford police have stated they do not want more parades, so this is not a viable option.
Why weren’t parents and students asked for input?
It appears a letter went out from the high school principal stating a survey would be coming on parent input for the graduation. Yet none ever went out regarding graduation. There is a question if the “survey” was meant to be regarding online teaching, but some thought it was about graduation.
In either event, parent input would have taken a back seat to East Shore Health anyway. This is not a typical decision by the BOE working on its own, the BOE is very limited by Governor Lamont and East Shore Health. The pandemic is not working on anyone’s timetable, and East Shore looks at the health issue, not parent or student concerns.
Some students were in on some initial meetings from what I can gather. Yet later meetings were cancelled, or they were not included. This may seem unfair, but the role of East Shore increased as reopening plans moved forward. Ultimately, they have the final say, no matter what any student, parent or even BOE member would like.
Why can’t we delay until August?
First, we have no idea what students and/faculty will not be able to make it in August. If the pandemic greatly improves, some may be away, some are joining the military, or any variety of reasons may cause some to miss the event in August.
But the main reason is if there is a spike in cases and a new stay-at-home order is given. Then there would be no ceremony. When looking at the future, we don’t know if we will be the same, better or worse when it comes to the virus, and delaying can mean never actually being able to hold any ceremony. Some parents are assuming it will be the same or better, and if the same, can use the current plan as default. But the BOE has to also look at the very real possibility the virus spikes and in that case, the students would not have a ceremony.
But other towns are doing x. Why can't we?
Branford, East Haven and North Branford are governed by East Shore Health. Other towns have their own health department that would weigh in. Different towns have different densities, population, makeup, and logistical differences to the point we cannot compare one town to the next. Each Health department decides that for the town they are in.
Its unfortunate the students cannot get the graduation they have looked forward to for much of their academic careers. Everyone loves graduation day. But the truth is COVID doesn’t care. We don’t know what it will do tomorrow, and everyone has to move very cautiously. The plan now is for a 2 day “ceremony” to take place, some virtual, some in cars, and allows for pictures to still be taken for students walking the stage and getting diplomas. Many other towns are doing the same thing.
The risk of delay is not being able to have a ceremony at all. That’s up to COVID, not any administrator or official. Official are siding with having a less than ideal ceremony over taking a chance of none at all.
I know some students were told they would be “heard” and some parents expected a survey. You can take issue with how it was handled, but these are very unique and trying times. Things change. It is very likely weeks ago school officials thought they would have more of a say, and recently the heath department has been the real deciding factor. That’s the nature of a pandemic. One can be angry, but that will get us nowhere.
I hope everyone has the best time possible at the graduation. But as I talked to many involved, I saw a legitimate attempt to give the seniors a chance to walk and get photos, and guarantee at least some ceremony. Not everyone may agree it was the right decision, but its something, and everyone will always have the story of how a town worked to make sure a graduation ceremony take place in the middle of a pandemic.
That’s no small feat.