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Molly Rhoads and Benjamin Rich (Photo by Mike Schwartz)

Last weekend, Hopewell Valley Central High School seniors finally had the opportunity to mark their graduation with an in-person ceremony. The event was outdoor and attendees observed social distancing guidelines.

“There were a lot of times over the last several weeks when we didn’t think we were going to be able to hold an in-person graduation,” observed District Superintendent Dr. Thomas Smith, “but thanks to the efforts of the Central High School Admin team and our Facilities Department we followed all applicable guidelines to provide a safe and meaningful event on a beautiful day.”

Graduation ceremonies had been delayed since schools were closed statewide starting March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Hopewell Valley, efforts had been made to celebrate the graduates in other ways, including a Facebook “adopt-a-senior” effort and a virtual graduation, but parents and students held out hope for weeks that they would be allowed to celebrate in person. Governor Murphy gave families their wish last month when he announced in-person graduations would be allowed as of July 6 so long as safety guidelines were in place.

“Many schools decided not to have an in-person graduation because it was too hard,” Smith continued. “We did it because we wanted our students to have a traditional send off.  I am thankful to the Board of Education and the senior families who trusted us to deliver a safe experience for our community and I am hopeful that they saw the work and planning that went into the event.

Newly installed CHS principal Patricia (Pinelli) Riley added: “I am so thankful that the Class of 2020 had the opportunity to come together for a socially distant, in-person graduation. The graduation celebration was the first time many of the students had seen each other since March, and I’m happy that with the support of Dr. Smith and the Board of Education, we were able to provide a chance for them to reunite.”

Highlights from the day were captured by Mike Schwartz photography. For the full album, click here.

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