Parents, students, family and friends are heartbroken nearly 60 New Hartford seniors are going without a graduation ceremony after most of the class had theirs.

173 seniors planned to walk across the Stanley Theater stage to receive their diploma, one at a time, while a small group of family members watched and took pictures. Over a hundred had that opportunity Monday and Tuesday. The remaining 57 students planned to attend the special ceremony Wednesday, but it was cancelled because the Stanley is not allowed to be open under New York State guidelines.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente released a statement:

"Under the governor’s executive order, schools are closed and venues such as the Stanley are not to be open under any circumstance. There are also currently no guidelines from the state on how school districts should conduct their graduations. During my discussions with our local school districts, both of those points were made abundantly clear, but unfortunately, the New Hartford Central School District chose not to be a part of those discussions."

Plans were altered to allow the remaining students to receive their diploma at the Performing Arts Center. But that had to be cancelled too because schools can't be open either. Now the district plans to 'deliver personal belongings and graduation items directly to student homes.'

New Hartford School District released a statement on Facebook:

"New Hartford Central School District has spent the past several days attempting to honor our 2020 graduates. Our efforts to hold some semblance of a traditional graduation ceremony at the Stanley Performing Arts Center was unable to continue, nor will our subsequent attempt to complete our salute to seniors at our own performing arts complex. We are abiding by the recommendations of County Executive Picente and Governor Cuomo’s office to postpone our greatly abridged ceremony.

We know that schools across the state have formed creative strategies to acknowledge high school graduates. These strategies have necessitated proper social distancing guidelines and the use of personal protective equipment. Events of this nature certainly had to be in strict adherence to local health guidelines. Our event was definitely of this nature, as it was an individualized ceremony for one graduate and up to six family members. The district has been respectful of local and state guidelines, as it has been our understanding that schools were able to hold such small functions.

In conversation with BOCES District Superintendent Patricia Kilburn, we have been informed that other school districts locally and around the state have planned similar events. Given the unfortunate circumstances this week, school faculty and staff have delivered personal belongings and graduation items directly to student homes."

Families are outraged and are speaking out on the New Hartford School District's Facebook page.

Abigail Lee Weaver says her sister deserves to be recognized. "How dare the school take away my sister's hard work because of where her names stands in the alphabet. She deserves a chance to walk across the stage or gym or football field. She deserves something. It’s ridiculous this letter is coming out now. We were five minutes from the school when she received the call it was canceled, again."

Erika Yac feels the district's letter explaining what happened isn't enough. "What exactly is the take away from this informally written letter? It makes zero sense to me. Did I miss something? No emotions? No apologies."

New Hartford seniors aren't alone. Grads around the country are facing the same reality in a world plagued by COVID-19, missing out on a graduation they worked years to attend and rightfully deserve.

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