FLEMINGTON, NJ - After Superintendent Dr. Kari McGann previously announced a June 23 video presentation would be assembled to celebrate the promotion of the graduating class, J.P. Case Principal Bob Castellano addressed the Flemington-Raritan Regional Board of Education June 8 and shared his school’s plans to organize an “8th Grade Celebration Parade” on campus June 24 at 5 p.m.

Despite Gov. Phil Murphy announcing last month that he would be allowing New Jersey school districts to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies starting July 6, as long as certain COVID-related guidelines are followed, the Hunterdon County school district has held firm that this celebratory video and parade are the current highlights of its plan to celebrate the graduating class.

Last year, the eighth grade promotion ceremony was held inside the middle school’s auditorium.

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“Us at J.P. Case, we are really excited for end-of-the-year, to make it as special as we can,” Castellano said at the meeting.

According to the latest guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), drive-through/drive-in ceremonies are permitted before July 6. More details on the guidelines can be found at www.nj.gov/education/covid19/boardops/commencement.shtml

No other details on the middle school’s parade were shared at the meeting, however, Castellano said an email went out to the J.P. Case families informing them of the event.

But there’s more than just the parade and this virtual promotion ceremony coming for the class.

Castellano said the eighth graders wearing their caps and gowns will have the opportunity to take “a couple of really nice pictures” in front of the new J.P. Case entrance sign.

“(Vice Principal Peter) Sibilia is working on this as we speak, because there is a lot to it,” he said. “But, information will be emailed to parents for any Class of 2020 J.P. Case graduate who would like to take a picture in front of our new school sign with their name highlighted in front of it, with a nice Class of 2020 graphic behind it.”

The middle school is still gearing up for its pre-recorded promotion ceremony to be sent out to families June 23 at noon. McGann announced these plans at the May 27 virtual board meeting.

“We have a fantastic video that is being prepared with many different pieces to it,” Castellano added. “This will also act as a commemorative piece, which we’ve never had before for our classes. Mr. Jay Borawski (school’s technology integration specialist) is working very hard on that with our entire staff.”

Even with all these events in the works, there is still a clamor from parents wanting to have some form of a traditional in-person ceremony for the middle school graduates.

Board member Chris Walker noted that he was contacted by a resident about “having a more dignified ceremony with the handing out of diplomas,” and this individual, he said, received a response from McGann.

“I believe that our virtual recognition of students is absolutely dignified,” McGann said. “I’ve seen (Vice President Jessica) Abbott’s speech. I’ve seen mine. I heard from Mr. Castellano today (about) the fabulous speeches that students have prepared, and our choir has recorded (the National Anthem).”    

“We wanted to have something more, but the requirements of (the governor’s) executive orders caused us to redo a lot of work, and that is troublesome,” she added. “Many superintendents have been dealing with that. I do believe what has been submitted already is very dignified and beautiful and so honorable for our students.”   

Walker voiced his feelings that the eighth grade class, and high school’s senior class, should have a “dignified” graduation ceremony and be handed a diploma that is “not passed through a window like a cheeseburger.” He later clarified that he believes the current graduation plans are “dignified” and just wishes more could be done, despite the district’s hands being tied.

“My frustration is not with our school district and administration and Mr. Castellano,” he said. “My frustration is with the top of New Jersey’s government.”  

He also brought up the topic of having a traditional outdoor graduation ceremony with the Raritan Township mayor and committee, who he contended said they would do anything to support the endeavor if pursued.

“One council member even offered up Lenape Park,” Walker said.