SOUTHINGTON — The Board of Education voted unanimously this week to set Aug. 7 as the new high school graduation date.
The rain date for the event, set to be held in-person on the Southington High School football field, would be Aug 8.
School Superintendent Tim Connellan, prior to the board's vote Thursday night, cautioned that statewide restrictions on large public gatherings may still be in place in early August.
Connellan and other administrators recommended the date and venue to the school board after surveying parents and students.
“I hope (restrictions) will lessen as we hit June 20th,” Connellan said, citing the date for the second phase of the statewide reopening plan. “There are no guarantees. We do not have a crystal ball. We're going to do our very, very, very best, to do everything we can to do (graduation) as close to what we typically do as possible. “
For example, school officials may learn next month that statewide restrictions won't allow for one single commencement. Officials may then have to plan for a series of smaller commencement events.
In an email to superintendents on Friday, state Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona announced a change allowing ceremonies “with a cap of 150 people total, including graduates, after July 6, 2020 so long as the public health data supports the continued opening of our state.”
“I wanted to provide this information for those of you who may be planning communication to your students and families over this weekend, and as you prepare for graduations in your districts,” Cardona added in the Friday email.
It was unclear what change if any the latest directive might prompt for schools with graduating classes as large as Southington High.
Meriden school board President Robert Koskienski Jr. said Friday evening that officials in his district would consider the idea of multiple, smaller ceremonies at the city’s two high schools and were prepared to revisit previously announced plans.
Connellan said that as of Thursday, at least 50 members of the class of 2020, which totals more than 500 students, may be unable to attend graduation on Aug. 7.
District officials still plan to recognize the accomplishments of all students.
“We're going to have to do something for them,” Connellan said. “We're not going to say, 'Sorry you can't be there.'”
Trevor Messina, a member of Southington High School's class of 2020 and a student representative on the school board, said even if those families have a separate graduation date, it's important to recognize them during the graduation ceremony.
“I think everyone should be recognized whether they are present or not at whatever form of graduation we do have,” Messina said.
Survey results showed that about 75 percent of respondents favored an Aug. 7 graduation over other options.
At the Thursday night meeting, the school board also voted to adopt a new pass-fail grading system for the last quarter of school, which was conducted remotely.
Whether schools will have to reopen with distance learning measures still in place is something school officials hope to learn next month.
“Right now, we don't know what the rules are going to be,” Connellan told board members.
School officials plan to use more than $600,000, including more than $418,000 in anticipated Federal CARES Act funding and $210,000 in funds that were not expended in the current year, to purchase Chromebook laptop computers and other devices to achieve one-to-one device access for students across the district.