Shamong district will hand-deliver diplomas to eighth graders

Virtual ceremony to be followed by diplomas on the doorstep

Over a month away from since schools were first directed to close by Gov. Phil Murphy, Indian Mills Memorial School changes their message board to wish students well and remind them they are missed by staff and administration on April 27 (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

Personal congratulations are in store for graduating eighth graders in Shamong.

Superintendent Christine Vespe announced during the board of education’s May 19 meeting that the Burlington County Department of Health and state police have approved the district’s plan to hold a virtual promotion ceremony for Indian Mills Memorial School and hand-deliver diplomas to the middle school students’ homes.

Plans include livestreaming the reading of graduates’ names. It is unknown which streaming platform the district will use, IMMS Principal Tim Carroll said information will be made available for parents and the community.

Current social distancing restrictions in the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic have continued to limit public gatherings. Schools shut their doors in early May for the rest of the year.

Given the restrictions in Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders, Superintendent of the State Police Col. Patrick Callahan said virtual graduations can proceed in lieu of standard ones, leading to Shamong’s plans being approved.

“I was happy to hear that and to add to it, I want to thank the staff, administration, board and the community,” Vespe shared. “This has not been easy and has been difficult. It’s heart-wrenching to see us coming into the schools and it’s left as it was when we left in March, with some of the St. Patrick’s Day decorations still up.”

Carroll said he and 12 volunteers from the staff are scheduled to visit homes the morning of June 12 — the school’s eighth grade graduation date — to present diplomas, yearbooks and other items to students’ families.

The usual end-of-year academic awards ceremony has been restructured for the eighth grade class, but will still highlight student achievements.

“We’re going to make live a virtual awards the night before graduation,” Carroll said. “The week after graduation, the awards will be mailed home to the families.”

Students whose lockers have personal items are being cleaned by IMMS staff and Carroll, who jokingly directed the staffers to “pack the lockers as if it was the property of your favorite child.” Belongings have been put in labeled bags for a parent pickup.

“Christine (Vespe) said to me, and it resonated, for some students, this will be their last memory of the school year with getting their stuff back,” Carroll stated.

Exact details on the virtual graduation and awards ceremony are expected to be released in the coming weeks. The next Shamong School District Board of Education meeting is June 9 at 7 p.m. Details to access the meeting are available by visiting ShamongSchools.org.