The Day – East Lyme School Board asks high school to open the graduation party for distant learners
Members of the East Lyme – East Lyme School Board this week called on district leaders to reconsider the ban on distance learners from prom, but abstained from voting to force the change.
Instead, the school board left it in the hands of the administration. Superintendent of Schools Jeff Newton said Wednesday Principal Deb Roselli Kelly and her team will discuss the matter next week.
The ball will take place on June 12 at Branford House on the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus. Currently, Virtual Vikings – the name of the district for those who chose to learn remotely during the coronavirus pandemic instead of going to schools in person – are not allowed to attend. Seniors are not allowed to bring guests.
The subject was raised by school board member Candice Carlson on Wednesday at the first school board meeting held since East Lyme High School senior Makayla Desrosier launched a petition on change.org to allow guests and virtual Vikings to attend the ball. The petition had collected 201 signatures on Wednesday afternoon.
Carlson has asked Newton and the high school administration to review his ban on virtual Vikings.
âI think in those situations where the prom is taken off it’s usually – and correct me if I’m wrong – punishment,â she said.
She asked “what’s wrong” as she reconsidered the decision.
“I think it’s fair for someone in this position – one of us or 10 of us – to at least admit that there’s a bunch of students who can’t go and that they feel like they’re being punished, âCarlson said.
The Virtual Viking program provides a third-party online curriculum for families who are uncomfortable with teaching COVID-19 face-to-face. Newton said it was the district’s year-round protocol not to allow virtual Vikings to participate in sports or attend other activities.
“If they can go to the ball, why can’t they come to school, I guess that’s the question,” he said in response to Carlson.
Newton said distance learners can return to teaching in person at any time.
Deputy Superintendent Amy Drowne told school board members that during the time she was sitting at the two-hour meeting, she was informed that three more seniors would be returning to school. That left 20 seniors in the Virtual Viking program as of Monday.
Several other school board members, including President Timothy Hagen, spoke out in favor of allowing Virtual Vikings to attend the ball.
âI just don’t see why not,â he said, citing evolving pandemic guidelines and the low rates of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in the state.
The only school board member to voice concerns was Jaime Barr Shelburn, who wondered if parents whose kids are in the Virtual Viking program would want to risk sending them to the ball.
“Would you like your Virtual Viking to have spent all this time safe in your home and then come to the ball and get COVID?” she said.
The ball will include food trucks, according to Newton. Manager Kelly said there will be a tent on the Branford House’s lawn for food and “any dancing that happens.”
Masks will be needed, Newton said.
Hagen noted that the school board has the power to vote on the issue. But he said it needed to be posted on the agenda so the public would know the discussion will take place.
The next school board meeting will be on June 7th.