SPRINGFIELD, NJ — As the COVID-19 pandemic has dragged on, the Jonathan Dayton High School class of 2020 has seen one major end-of-year milestone after another swept away.
In an effort to recognize the members of the senior class for all their hard work, the school surprised them with a display of personalized banners on the fence outside the high school, each one bearing the name and photograph of a member of the senior class.
Yesterday afternoon, TAPinto Springfield caught up with members of the school administration and community, who came by to see the banners in their full glory.
For Jonathan Dayton principal Dr. Norman Francis, hanging up the banners was a way to honor the senior class, who have collectively shown their poise and maturity in dealing with the hurdles of a global pandemic.
"We just want to make sure that they feel appreciated," Francis said. "They've done a lot of hard work to get to where they are. And so, at a time like this, [there's] a lot of restriction, but we have to find the little things that we can do, the big things that we can do when we get an opportunity."
"The banners, we had a conversation with Mr. Davino, one of our administrative cabinets," he added. "The idea hit the table, and he was all on board, and said 'let's do it.' So we kept it as a little bit of a surprise, because it's nice to get surprises every now and then. We're just glad we could do it for the students."
Vice Principal Ron Slate was also outside the school with Francis affixing the banners to the fence. He noted how proud he was of the seniors and the teachers that taught them for persevering through an unorthodox year.
"I'm very proud of the class, the teachers," Slate said. "What we thought would start off being a two-week vacation, to scrapping the whole year really took us all by surprise. But again, the true character and spirit of Dayton students [...] they stepped up, teachers stepped up."
Slate also said that as it would have been his final graduation before starting as principal at Sandmeier, he was sad to see an in-person ceremony scrapped for the time being. But he said the fact that school administrators were able to surprise the kids was something he really enjoyed.
As news about the banners spread, parents and students came by to check them out. One of those graduates was Sam Needleman, there with his mom Lori and dad Larry. He said he was thankful for the banners, and that he saw the effort administrators in the district were making, and appreciated it.
"I think it's really nice," Needleman said. "I mean, we can't really do much right now. We're all in this predicament together. But they're making the best out of it that they can, and giving us something at least. So I appreciate it honestly."
As for the lesson he would take from his shortened senior year, Needleman was quick to point out that while senior year is key, it should not define who the class of 2020 is, and what they've been able to accomplish.
"I'm really taken that senior year is one of the four years that we've had, and senior year really shouldn't define what we've all done during this time. We've done a lot. We've gone through a lot of tragedies in the world, and we've experienced all these different things. Everyone has their own story that they can tell. I think it's great what they're doing."