Classmates and teachers were reunited one last time for the Cheshire High School Class of 2020 commencement ceremony on Sunday.
The approximately 345 graduating seniors were only able to leave their vehicles during the ceremony to pick up diplomas and pose for photos, but still managed to find ways to connect with their longtime friends.
While cars were parked in the staging area across the street at Bartlem Recreation Area, students got out of their vehicles and mingled. School staff lined the route from Bartlem to the high school and the spot where School Superintendent Jeff Solan and Principal Mary Gadd handed out diplomas and copies of the final edition of the student newspaper under a large United States flag hung from a fire engine.
Connor Ford said all graduation ceremonies are bittersweet and added the Class of 2020’s was especially so since many of his peers hadn’t seen each other since schools were closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a little weird, it’s sort of an unbelievable experience because of everything that’s been happening,” he said.
Ford feels school officials did the best they could with the ceremony under the circumstances. He wished that an earlier plan to have an in-person graduation ceremony on the football field could have come to fruition.
Solan emailed students on Friday that members of the school community had tested positive for COVID-19. In collaboration with the Chesprocott Health District, school officials decided a drive-in ceremony was the safest way to award diplomas.
The original commencement on August 2 at the Farmington Polo Club was rained out. The Aug. 4 rain date was postponed to Aug. 6 because of Tropical Storm Isaias. However, the storm did so much damage in town the ceremony was moved to Sunday.
Sarah McManus said it was a stressful week to cap off a chaotic senior year for her son, Liam McManus, but she believes he and his peers learned to persevere in the process.
“It’s definitely not traditional and not what I had envisioned, but the last six months have certainly taught us to be flexible,” she said. “ … This class will certainly be able to roll with the punches and I think they’ve been a great class.”
“I would loved to have had a senior experience, but you have to be safe,” Liam McManus added.