Following guidance from Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas McMorran and the state, Helen Keller Middle School staff has planned a virtual graduation ceremony to celebrate students completing the eighth grade.

The ceremony will be prerecorded and emailed to families on June 16 and will feature speeches from First Selectman Dr. David Bindelglass, McMorran, and the Easton Board of Education chair. (The school board will elect a chair when it meets on June 9.) Principal Susan Kaplan has suggested families watch the video at 5:30 p.m., when the school would typically begin the in-person ceremony. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eighth graders have had to miss a number of the usual end-of-year rites of passage, including the eighth grade formal and field trip to Six Flags. Kaplan noted that the PTO has still found ways to make the end of the school year special. For example, all eighth grade students will receive a T-shirt when they collect their belongings from the school. 

The PTO has also sold lawn signs to families with eighth grade students. Easton’s “Balloon Lady,” Patty Jurgielewicz, worked with the PTO to place a balloon display outside the entrance to the school.

School administrators plan to hand-deliver diplomas and yearbooks to the graduates. Disruptions to businesses have delayed the arrival of both items to the school. The school has also had to coordinate times for students to come to campus to collect personal belongings left behind and return school property, such as library books and textbooks.

The school and parents alike are waiting for further information from Dr. Stephanie Pierson Ugol, assistant superintendent, about when and how the schools will reopen. 

Despite the unusual circumstances, Kaplan is proud of the graduating students. “If they could make it through this crisis and do academics and distance learning this way, then that’s a good setup for them to overcome future obstacles in their lives,.” Kaplan said.

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