standing Stonington High School

STONINGTON — It remains to be seen whether the school district will be able to hold graduation ceremonies on June 19 as planned, but local students can rest assured that there will be a formal celebration.

In a letter sent to seniors at Stonington High School on Tuesday, Schools Superintendent Van Riley guaranteed the district will hold a formal ceremony, regardless of whether it occur on June 19 or be postponed until a date later in the summer.

“I can say with certainty that your graduation ceremony will occur,” Riley said. “The ceremony will take place at Stonington High School and you and your families will be invited. Depending on the date and other circumstances, we will do everything possible to find creative ways for your guests who are not able to attend in person to do so virtually.”

Assistant Superintendent Mary Anne Butler said last week that the district is currently transitioning to a formalized distance learning plan that will begin on Monday. The district will then continue to conduct digital school days until notified by the state that it is safe to return to the classroom. Butler said the district is preparing in the event that students cannot return during the current school year, but the district remains optimistic that things will return to normal before then.

Regardless of how much time is spent conducting distance learning, the district has set a final day of June 19 for the 2019-20 academic year.

Officials said the letter was designed to provide a level of reassurance for students. The letter was sent just one day after Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced that all schools in the state were to remain closed through at least April 20 to comply with CDC guidelines designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The extended period of ‘in-school class cancellations’ is consistent with the longer term closures the federal CDC suggested could take place,” said Peter Yazbak, spokesman for the state Department of Education, in a press release.

District officials said the goal still remains to hold the graduation ceremony on the scheduled date, but only if it is safe to do so. They said it would be premature to set a date, however, because of uncertainty in scheduling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If graduation ceremonies do need to be postponed, Riley said students would still be issued their diplomas on June 19 and the event would simply be held at a later date.

“Thank you for your understanding and flexibility during your last semester at Stonington High School,” Riley said in the letter. “We will have a graduation ceremony for you.”

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