[Note: The parade will kick off from NCHS at 11 a.m.]
New Canaan High School seniors will participate in a community-wide parade to mark the milestone of their graduation in lieu of the accustomed ceremony at Dunning Field, ruled out this year due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, district officials say.
To be lined with banners spotlighting each student in the Class of 2020, the June 15 parade will start at NCHS travel up South Avenue to Cherry Street, then turn back toward Main and Farm Roads and finish in Waveny, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi told members of the Board of Education during a regular meeting held June 1.
“As students pull into Waveny and crest the hill, we will have our faculty and staff lined up here for a final wave goodbye,” Luizzi said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “As you know, our graduation is so special. One of the things I love about it, at the very end after receiving their diplomas, teachers recess out first and form two lines and then the kids come through they have one more chance to give them hugs, shake their hands, give them high-fives. We can’t do any of those, but we can certainly wave and jump up and down and do whatever we do at the end.”
Designed to be memorable and meaningful for 300-plus students who have been unable to meet as a group for the final weeks of their final year in New Canaan Public Schools, the approximately 4-mile parade will feature one car per family, Luizzi said. Those who live along the route (see graphic at right) are invited to come out and cheer on the Class of 2020, while others will be invited to salute the students at Waveny in a socially distanced way, he said.
Luizzi thanked district, police, fire and public works officials as well as the volunteer Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, and New Canaan’s Stuart Sawabini, who did “an amazing job of organizing and mapping out and figuring out distance and time and the hurdles we have to work through.”
“It’s a community effort,” Luizzi said. “It’s amazing how people pull together and different ideas bounce around. We love our graduation and we love what we do and we want to create something meaningful and memorable for kids.”
The district is seeking to secure a radio frequency for a broadcast during the parade, Luizzi said, and it will be preceded by a Zoom call designed to give students and their families a chance to connect directly with teachers for a final time. Graduating seniors will be able to schedule individual times to pick up diplomas and schedule for photos in their caps and gowns, for which NCHS Principal Bill Egan and other administrators will make themselves available, Luizzi said.
Public school buildings in New Canaan have been closed since March 12, following the first confirmed case of coronavirus disease in town. Since then, New Canaan has seen more than 200 people contract the virus and more than 30 people here die as a result of the disease, officials have said.
Students have participated since March in a remote learning program that will end Friday. (It’s unclear just when regular school will commence or under what restrictions, Luizzi has said.)
Board of Ed member Julie Mackle Reeves said it was important for the community to know about the parade and that “the kids feel embraced by the town, too, and people come out specifically for that.”
Asked by Board of Ed Secretary Jennifer Richardson about whether a July 31 event for seniors would be possible, Luizzi said that’s a date that has been set aside for a celebration if circumstances allow.
The celebration could include music and speeches, though it “all hinges on what we are able to do.”
Students in the fourth and eighth grades, who are to finish at the elementary and middle school levels, also will have a virtual graduation ceremony and celebration to mark the milestone, officials said. On Tuesday afternoon, teachers will be at the elementary schools and will greet families who sign up for time slots to drive through, he said. A similar event is schedule for Saxe Middle School, he said.
“Zoom is a wonderful tool, but it doesn’t replace actually seeing a person in real life, so I think that will be great opportunity for our kids and I know our staff as well, they miss their kids terribly,” he said.