Early last week, the Black Horse Pike Regional School District sent a letter to state representatives requesting “reasonable accommodations” that would allow potential graduation ceremonies for students from the three regional districts, as well as those from other high schools in the state.
At its board of education meeting on May 7, the regional district heard complaints from parents about end-of-year events for seniors being cancelled or dramatically altered.
During that meeting, Superintendent Brain Repici and multiple board members reported that they’ve been working with local law enforcement and officials, as well as state representatives, to find a safe and legal way of celebrating graduation.
“We are trying to do every angle that we can … We keep coming at it with ideas,” said board member Kevin Bucceroni. “We can only do what we’re allowed to within the law; we’re trying our best and we will continue to try our best.”
Most ideas the district had generated, the board said, are prohibited due to the state’s limit on the number of people allowed at public gatherings.
“We feel sorry for the seniors who will possibly miss out on the end of the high school career events due to the pandemic that has engulfed the nation in uncertainty,” Repici said earlier this month.
After discussing various options, the school district sent its letter to state Senate President Steve Sweeney and state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin to request a loosening of current restrictions on gatherings that prohibit the large school district from hosting many end-of-year events.
“While we have a firm grasp on the scientific rationale and remain in support of the health-related reasons associated with school closures and executive orders requiring social distancing, we are respectfully asking for consideration on elevating the number of people who can gather at any one time, while still maintaining an appropriate 6 feet distance between one another,” said the letter, signed by Repici.
The letter also said the district does not want to burden health-care workers and that it can execute a plan for graduating seniors outdoors that would not violate social-distancing guidelines.
Between the Triton, Highland and Timber Creek regional high schools, the district has over 900 graduates. Earlier this month, the district said each one of the three schools was making plans for seniors to experience various events, such as art shows, College Signing Day and yearbook distribution.
The district plans to host a virtual graduation on Tuesday, June 16, if restrictions are not lifted, while making accommodations for an in-person graduation on Tuesday, June 23, if limitations are eased.
A statement by the district said Repici is working with local school and community organizations, as well as the Gloucester Township, Bellmawr and Runnemede police departments and local fire departments, to host three parades through each town to honor graduates.
The district would purchase streamers and window markers for the event. Tentative plans are for Highland to host the parade on June 22, followed by Timber Creek on June 23 and Triton on June 24.