Students in Berlin Hope for In-Person Graduation

The school board voted Monday night to move the graduation ceremony from June 21 to August 7, hoping restrictions will have eased by then.

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It's been a strange final year of high school for seniors with schools closed down and plans for their graduation ceremony up in the air.

Rachel Rochette's daughter, Abbie, is a senior at Berlin High School. Like many others, Abbie had looked forward to prom and other events.

"As each day passed and the realization became clearer that all of those things weren't going to happen, it started to get more and more disappointing," said Rochette.

The district sent a survey to families asking if they wanted to hold a virtual ceremony on the originally scheduled graduation day or delay it in hopes of having an in-person ceremony. School leaders say the overwhelming majority chose to delay it.

At a special meeting held virtually on Monday, the Berlin Public Schools Board of Education voted to move the graduation ceremony from June 21 to August 7 with August 8 as the rain date. The time and location have yet to be determined.

"As it was phrased to me by a student, 'It's our graduation.' And if that's what they want, then I think that's what we should do," said Berlin Public Schools Superintendent Brian Benigni.

School officials did not vote on whether students will have a virtual or live ceremony. That depends on the restrictions still in place across the state at the time.

"We hope it opens enough by August to be able to allow what we want to allow," said Berlin Public Schools BOE President Richard Aroian.

In the meantime, officials will need to plan for a virtual and live event just in case. For students like Abbie, it's the decision they were hoping for, giving them at least the possibility they'll be able to celebrate with their class one last time.

"It was almost like a sigh of relief, and she smiled," said Rochette. "So it was just like a weight had been taken off her shoulders a little bit."

The district is still looking to mark the original graduation date in some way for students. There's also been discussion of a senior weekend at some point if restrictions ease.

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