Palmyra district addresses plans to close out the school year

Superintendent outlines what graduation may look like and how students will retrieve belongings.

There are fewer than 30 days left of school in Palmyra, and with that in mind, the district is engaged in conversations about how to formally bring the year to a close.

During the board of education’s May 13 virtual meeting, Superintendent of Schools Brian McBride discussed plans for students to pick up their belongings and for potential graduation scenarios.

McBride said under Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order, students are not allowed on campus. But both staff and students still have belongings that need to be retrieved before the district can formally close and sanitize schools during the summer.

Palmyra staff are currently engaged in discussions with the Burlington County Department of Health about how to safely retrieve personal belongings. The tentative plan is to have a team of volunteer staffers gather student belongings, place them in marked bags and organize them in a systematic manner.

From there, the district’s plan is to distribute those belongings on June 5. Throughout the course of that week, students or their parents will be given a predetermined date and time to arrive and pick up belongings through a contact-free process. McBride emphasized that the plan remains tentative.

The district is also discussing graduation. The superintendent said the current plan is to host a virtual graduation on June 15, the last day of school for Palmyra High School seniors. 

The district is currently in talks with a vendor that will create a prerecorded video featuring portraits of seniors and speeches from Palmyra’s administrators. 

During the virtual ceremony, the district will  announce senior award recipients, and the valedictorian, salutatorian, student council president and senior class president will give their speeches. The video will conclude with a montage of candid photos from throughout the school year. 

In addition to the virtual event, the district is tentatively planning for an in-person ceremony in July. McBride said as of May 13, there was no authorization from the governor’s office allowing for in-person graduations, but the district is hopeful it will be possibile come July. So officials are proposing a July 21 outdoor ceremony at the high school stadium.

McBride anticipates strict social-distancing requirements at that event, so families will be limited to four guests who will  be seated 6 feet apart. All attendees will be required to wear masks or facial coverings. 

The Palmyra police department and district staff will be employed for crowd control. Administration officials will deliver speeches, and the district will allow two student speeches. The class of 2020 will be recognized as a whole, and then Palmyra will bid farewell to the graduates. 

McBride emphasized all plans are subject to change, and he thanked the class of 2020 for setting a positive tone during an unprecedented time. 

“Certainly there’s been no class before you — and hopefully no class after you — that’s had to ever endure this.”