SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – For years, clap outs, picnics, promotion ceremonies, yearbook signing parties, and more have served as celebratory rites of passage for South Plainfield students in fourth, sixth, and eighth grade. While nothing can make up for these lost milestones and experiences, efforts are being made by the PTOs and PTSOs to recognize their students.

Over the coming week, banners are going up in front of South Plainfield’s seven academic buildings and lawn signs recognizing fourth, sixth, and eighth graders along with high school seniors are popping up throughout the community.

“Our fourth graders look so forward to festivities such as the yearbook party, moving up ceremony, and a clap out that brings everyone to tears on the last day. We are extremely sad that we cannot celebrate in our traditional way this year,” said Susan Lester, president of Franklin’s PTO and the mom of a fourth grader.

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In the past, the Franklin School PTO has run a lawn sign fundraiser for its outgoing students through which parents were able to purchase a personalized sign that would be displayed alphabetically on the grounds of the building the last week of school. This year, however, 46 signs were purchased by the PTO and on the afternoon of May 5, the three fourth grade teachers, along with Principal Ralph Erirco and representatives of the PTO, personally delivered the signs to each student’s home.

“While we realize that it’s definitely not the same, we hope these small gestures brighten their day and let them know we are thinking of them and are proud of all they have accomplished during their time at Franklin,” said Lester. “We wish them all the best at Grant and will miss them."     

The same afternoon, members of the South Plainfield Middle School PTO and Riley PTSO also distributed their lawn signs, both holding no-contact curbside pickups at their respective buildings. 

“We wanted to do something since they are missing out on so much, including a yearbook signing party and a physical graduation,” said Melissa Becker, president of the SPMS PTO and the mother of an 8th grader, noting that a total of 270 lawn signs were purchased. “It is definitely not the same, but it’s something.”

“We are trying to make this as special as we can and this is a different kind of memory and a way to still celebrate them,” added Mary Everitt, co-president of the Riley PTSO and the mom of one of the school’s 65 fourth graders. “You only get promoted from fourth grade once, and they have missed out on so many other things this year. They’ve all worked really hard, and we want them to know we are proud of them.”

Although Grant does not typically hold a moving up ceremony, Principal Patrick Sarullo told TAPinto that the parent organization purchased signs to ‘recognize [the sixth grade] students and celebrate their advancement to South Plainfield Middle School' and, according to PTO co-President Mindy Gerber, a total of 244 lawn signs were distributed May 7 via a curbside pickup.

“We felt that it was important to give the sixth grade students the lawn signs to honor their move from Grant School on to the Middle School because it recognizes their hard work and achievements they put in at Grant,” said Gerber. “When they see the lawn sign we hope it makes them remember all the new friends they made and the teachers they had and what Grant School meant to each of them.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the Kennedy School, PTSO along with the three fourth grade teachers and Principal Kevin Hajduk also delivered personalized signs to the school's 52 outgoing fourth graders.

"We are so happy to be able to recognize this milestone in our fourth grade students' lives, of growing up and moving on to a new school. We hope that they will feel celebrated as they would have when we were in the school building,” said Tamara Winsmann, president of the Kennedy School PTSO.

The Roosevelt PTO also plans to recognize its 71 fourth graders with lawn signs; signs will be distributed via a porch pick up early next week and parents will be provided information on the date and location via email.

"During this difficult time...the Roosevelt PTO is looking at ways to honor their 4th graders.... we are working on keeping as much of the promotion traditions alive as possible,” said Leilani Obligacion, the parent organization’s president and mom of a fourth grader. “We send our congratulations to our fourth graders and wish them well as they move onto Grant School.”

Along with the lawn signs and school banners, the Franklin, Kennedy, Riley, and Roosevelt PTOs/PTSOs will also continue with the tradition of providing each of their fourth graders with a ‘Class of 2020’ T-shirt; students will receive them in the coming weeks along with their 2019-2020 yearbook, which, depending on the school, may also be gifted to fourth graders this year.

At South Plainfield High School, a PTO-purchased banner will also go up in front of the building and, on May 2, every senior received a lawn sign courtesy of the South Plainfield Education Association (SPEA). Additionally, throughout the community, photo signs purchased privately by families are popping up on lawns as well.

On a district level, said SPHS Interim Principal Robert Diehl, administrators are ' working together, every day, to figure out how to make this year as good or as special as possible under these circumstances.'

"It’s a daily conversation, sometimes several times a day, with different groups of people,” said Diehl, adding, “We understand what our seniors are feeling and going through and are looking at a number of the things to celebrate them."

(Note: Details on distribution of shirts and yearbooks will be provided to parents as they become available. If you have a child is a fourth, sixth, or eighth grader who did not receive a sign or details on pick/delivery, please contact the respective group mentioned in the article.)

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