District officials said this week that they’re hopeful New Canaan High School’s class of 2021 will be able to have a graduation ceremony at Dunning Field with at least parents in attendance and possibly others.
The state issued guidance on end-of-year events and it includes many of the strategies long in place at New Canaan Public Schools, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi told members of the Board of Education during their regular meeting Monday night.
Those strategies include wearing masks, social distancing, limiting the number of people in attendance, keeping track of who’s there, providing hand sanitizer and prohibiting anyone showing symptoms or who has tested positive for COVID-19 virus from attending, he said.
Graduation ceremonies, specifically, are to be held outdoors, Luizzi said during the meeting, held via videoconference. Luizzi said he met with NCHS Principal Bill Egan and Athletic Director Jay Egan to figure out “how can we safely hold a graduation for our families that at least gets the students and their parents in and maybe does a little bit more.”
“We’ve got to work within the limitations of the facility, but we do have the great fortune of having Dunning to use for graduation. So it may look a little different, but we’re optimistic that we will be able to get the parents in there and make it a great event for everybody.”
The comments came during an update to the Board of Ed on COVID-19-related matters.
Last year, New Canaan Public Schools organized a hugely successful “graduation parade” for NCHS seniors who, just a few months before finishing their academic careers here, found themselves separated from each other as well as teachers, staff and coaches as the pandemic set in.
Luizzi said that as of Monday night, the district had eight positive COVID-19 cased K-12 as well as 38 quarantines.
The need for quarantining students has risen with spring sports, he said, in part because the state requires all the players on a team to quarantine if there’s a positive case among them.
“And they do need to quarantine from sports for 14 days,” he said. “It’s 10 days from school and then they can return. But they are off the field or off the court for 14 full days because there is still a possibility that they could be positive and could get sick, all the way up to day 14. And we have had that happen with a couple of our kids, where they were close contacts and they were quarantined and it was on day 12, 13 or 14 that they actually began to exhibit symptoms.”
The reason students can come back to school after 10 days of quarantining is because it’s deemed an “essential function,” Luizzi said.
“And while they’re in school, they’re following mitigation strategies, wearing the masks and being safe, so it’s much less risk,” he said. “There’s always a little bit of risk, of course, but it’s a more manageable and acceptable risk to allow them to come back into school. There is an expectation though that they are only going to school. They’re not going out with friends, they’re not going out to restaurants, they’re not going to other events.”
State officials are advising school districts to eliminate “non-essential” end-of-year activities while identifying the “most important opportunities for kids.”
“What are sort of those milestones that you really want them to experience, but maybe letting go some of the other things,” Luizzi said. “Because what can happen if you don’t, we’ve got a student who goes to maybe [National Honors Society] induction one night and maybe a World Language induction the next night, and then they go to a sports banquet the third night and then maybe the next morning they feel sick and test positive. Everyone that attended all of those events is going to have to quarantine. So our kids are usually doing lots and lots of things like that. So kind of picking your spots and trying to really identify and focus on making great those things that are most meaningful for kids.”