‘Challenging school year’ will be capped with prom, in-person graduation, Wilton principal says

Photo of J.D. Freda

WILTON — Keep the cars in park this year, because Wilton High School’s 2021 graduation ceremony will once again be held in-person.

More than 300 seniors are expected to graduate at Tom Fujitani Field on June 12.

The outdoor commencement will cap off a unusual high school experience for the Class of 2021, with a rain date reserved for the following day. Wilton High School Principal Robert O’Donnell said there is no plan to limit the number of family members or supporters for each graduate.

The situation, he stressed, is fluid and could change based on the latest COVID data and guidance. For now though, masks will be required for the event and distance will be kept in mind when arranging seating at the stadium.

“For last year’s car parade graduation event, (we had) a lot of people who worked on it,” O’Donnell said, adding that it was a great success and many lessons were learned from it. “But we surveyed the senior class to get a sense of what they would prefer for their graduation. We floated the idea of a car procession or an on-field graduation. The vast majority opted for the on-field graduation.”

While O’Donnell said he believes the school is in a “very good spot” in terms of planning, and he believes there is still some planning left to be done as the commencement approaches.

He said every student will have the opportunity to walk, and will be able to select a friend to walk with into the ceremony.

“We historically allow students to process in with their friends. They can choose the person that they process in with,” the principal said. “We always have given the diplomas out after the ceremony, since we don’t do it alphabetically, so we know that each student gets the right one. That won't change.”

The senior and junior proms will be held at the Inn at Longshore in Westport weeks apart. The junior prom will be held May 21 and the senior event will be June 10.

“The student capacity limit is 350 students,” O’Donnell said.

The Inn at Longshore, according to the estimations given to the principal, can hold roughly 200 students outside and another 150 inside. He said the students approved the venue months before booking it.

To ensure student body safety, O’Donnell said attendance will be limited to only Wilton High students.

For the rest of the year-end celebrations, plans are moving ahead to have a limited in-person athletics award ceremony and art awards event.

Academic awards, which apply to a larger total of the school population, will be held online. O’Donnell said tentative plans are still being made for a limited end-of-year concert as well.

“I am very proud of our school and staff. I think the ethos of this school system is to do everything for our students,” the principal exclaimed. “It has been a challenging school year on so many fronts, but to organize these events and for them to go off well, that is our intention. To have the support of our central office and Dr. (Kevin) Smith, our superintendent, that has helped us (in the process) to plan and hold quality events.”