By Mariah Melendez
CHESHIRE – A fun fall tradition became a source of controversy recently for one local school.
On Oct. 7, Highland School Principal Scott Jeffrey sent an email to parents informing them that the Halloween Costume Parade, planned for Thursday, Oct. 31, would be limited to students in grades three and below, only. Previously, all students had been included in the parade.
The reasons for the change? Jeffrey stated that the decision was made based on concerns over parking and other safety issues.
“Students in grades four through six will view the parade from inside the building with their homeroom teachers and enjoy a class celebration following the parade,” the letter said. “… Students in grades four through six will not dress in costume. Unfortunately, we are forced to reduce the size of the parade for safety reasons based on limited safe parking and on the recommendation of the Cheshire Police.”
The letter went on to explain what precautions parents or guardians planning on attending the parade should take when they arrive at the school, which is located at 490 Highland Ave. (Route 10).
“Parking is limited,” wrote Jeffery. “Please carpool or walk if you are local. Do not park in the Castle Glen neighborhood, police department, or local businesses.”
The change garnered immediate backlash. On Cheshire’s Community Facebook Forum, a question was posted by Forum member Ian Sap, asking for opinions on whether children in grades four through six should be allowed to wear costumes. Those who responded made clear their objections to the restrictions, with most demanding that children of all ages be allowed to take part.
“I believe it’s completely unfair to only allow some children to participate, but not others,” said Sarah Niarchos, a former Highland alumnus and mother of a current Highland student. “I feel so badly for the fourth through sixth graders who are being robbed of a childhood experience amongst their classmates and friends when this could have been easily avoided. There is always a better way.”
The change also prevented parents or guardians attending the parade to dress in costume themselves.
“Kids need to be kids,” commented Katie Flynn. “You're only a kid once and parents don't ever get this opportunity again to watch their kids have fun at this young age.”
On the evening of Oct. 9, Ashley Tresp posted on the Facebook forum that her daughter, Cameron Tresp, would be circulating a petition at Highland the following day. It was hoped, Tresp explained, that the petition could help convince the school to reinstate the Halloween Parade for the older students.
Carmeron Tresp, who is in fifth grade at Highland, mentioned multiple potential solutions to the “parking and safety issues” Jeffrey outlined in his letter. including having different start times for the parade, depending on grade level, as well as allowing students to dress in costume for their classroom parties.
On Friday, Oct. 11, Jeffrey sent a second letter to parents, explaining that, while students in fourth through sixth grades would still not be allowed to walk in the parade, alterations were once again being made to the event.
“I have (been) approached by many students over the past few days who expressed their desire to wear a costume for their respective class celebrations,” Jeffrey wrote. “… We have decided to allow students the option to wear a costume to their class celebration. In this way, all students will be able to dress up, if they choose, in celebration of this festive occasion.”