On Monday, exactly 50 days before their scheduled graduation, a letter was distributed to the more than 250 students who were nearing the end of their time in the Deptford Township School District. Whether by physical mail or in their email inbox, the letter likely arrived with the sound of a thud.
The Class of 2020’s senior trip to Disney World, which had been rescheduled when schools closed two months ago amid the coronavirus pandemic, was now being canceled altogether.
It was the smart call by the Board of Education, surely, which put the well-being of its students as its top priority. And cancelling the trip when they did maximized the refund amount.
Each student is set to receive more than $1,500 back. The $15 they spent on senior trip T-shirts and bags won’t be refunded, since the orders were processed.
Perhaps when they look back in 10 years, the T-shirt will be a worthy memento and conversation starter. For now, it’s only another reminder of what was lost in the spring of 2020.
In an effort to raise the spirits of this year’s senior class, the Deptford Education Association has rallied to help celebrate its 12th graders. On Thursday, teachers and administrators from the district embarked on a journey throughout the township with a special delivery: Each senior’s home was decorated with a personal lawn sign, commemorating their upcoming graduation.
Feeling for its seniors, the school’s employees brainstormed ideas. The teachers association rallied to make one of those ideas a reality.
“We floated the idea about buying lawn signs for all of our seniors,” said Jeffrey Lebb, the principal at Deptford Township High School. “It was a great idea but we were not sure how to pay for it. I reached out to our staff and I am so proud of how they were able to contribute to make it happen. Before I was able to put together a plan for them to contribute, I received a call from our Deptford Education Association saying they are going to pick up the tab for the signs.
“We are very fortunate to have a teachers association that cares so much about our students and are always willing to step up and help in any way they can.”
“The senior class is really unfortunately bearing the brunt of (schools being closed indefinitely), missing out on a lot of memorable experiences,” said Mike Vilary, a history teacher at Deptford High School and also the president of the Deptford Education Association.
“We’ve been working with our administration, trying to come up with creative ideas to show the senior class some sort of recognition at this time,” Vilary continued. “Because they’re missing out on senior trip … prom is still up in the air, all of the seniors are losing the spring sports season. So we’ve been trying to come up with creative ideas to ease that frustration and burden.”
Vilary is the proud parent of two Deptford Township high schoolers. He’s also a Spartan alum: Vilary is a member of the Class of ’95.
His own graduation may have been a quarter century ago, but Vilary and the rest of the faculty at the high school sympathizes with the students who are missing out on so much at no fault of their own.
“It feels good,” Vilary said. “Obviously when you get into teaching, you get in it to work with the students and to have a positive influence on them. And the last couple months of senior year is a celebration of all of that. For that not to happen, we’re just trying to do what we can to show the seniors, before they graduate and move on, that they are valuable to us and we wish things were different for them.”