This is an open letter to the Norwalk Public Schools.
During the past three months, COVID-19 has caused students and their families across our country, state, and city to have loved ones tragically taken from them, jobs lost, and life-plans canceled.
On May 28th, P-TECH Norwalk seniors were informed that they would not be allowed to attend the Norwalk High School graduation, which will be held at Calf Pasture Beach on August 3rd. At a time where graduation is something that can bring our communities together, it seems that this decision will only separate us further.
The rationale for this decision, as sent in a schoolwide email was that, “To ensure the safety of all students and families, and the need to limit the number of participants at any school or district-sponsored event, we can no longer participate in large scale events such as joint graduations.”
There is no doubt that safety is the top priority and the district was wise to stay sensible of the recommendations made by the City of Norwalk Health Director while making plans for the graduation events. At the same time, it is also the job of the Norwalk Public Schools to serve all Norwalk students—including those of P-TECH Norwalk.
As you continue to deliberate on this decision, I ask you to keep the following points in mind:
With P-TECH students already receiving a graduation of their own, some administrators and NHS teachers might wonder why they would want to be included in the greater NHS graduation. The issue is clear: P-TECH students are not just P-TECH—for the past four years we have participated in various NHS classes, events, activities, and organizations. For the past four years, we have lived and breathed our dual-identities and we refuse to choose one over the other.
If you choose to divide P-TECH and NHS students in our celebration, then you also choose to wash away all the contributions that we have made as a unified graduating class: the class presidencies we’ve won, the sports teams we’ve captained, the lead roles we’ve played, the newspapers we’ve printed, and the organizations we’ve headed.
When the class of 2020 signed up to be a part of NECA four years ago we did not sign up to be alienated from our peers in the classroom; we did not sign up for our hard work to be discounted by being removed from the class rank; we did not sign up to have our joint graduation stolen from us.
Only after an uproar from P-TECH students and families over the decision, was a survey made available for NHS seniors to account for their attendance at the Calf Pasture beach graduation; But if a graduation at the beach is not a reasonable location to fit all the members of the NHS community, then it should not have been chosen. I strongly urge you to continue to find other solutions, even if this new survey does not give you the results that would make the choice easiest.
Often the easiest decision is not the best one. If the Norwalk Public Schools chooses to deny us P-TECH Norwalk students the opportunity of attending the NHS graduation, where our teammates, coaches, co-stars, classmates, and mentors from the past four years will be, it will not just be a hard decision that you will be making; it will also be the wrong one.
And that will ring true for all P-TECH Norwalk seniors on August 3rd, when instead of walking across the stage unified against injustice, hate, and bigotry, P-TECH Norwalk and NHS students will be forced to walk down two separate paths.