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June 1, 2020
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1

Among those heading out on May 20 to share signs of support for BHS Class of 2020 seniors was Branford Superintendent of Schools Hamlet Hernandez (right), shown here receiving signs from BHS Class of 2020 co-advisor Chris Stonier; with BHS principal Lee Panagoulias at back. 

Photo courtesy Dianne Dadio

Among those heading out on May 20 to share signs of support for BHS Class of 2020 seniors was Branford Superintendent of Schools Hamlet Hernandez (right), shown here receiving signs from BHS Class of 2020 co-advisor Chris Stonier; with BHS principal Lee Panagoulias at back. (Photo courtesy Dianne Dadio )

2

BHS Class of 2020 co-advisors Alicia Loesche and Chris Stonier work on organizing sign distribution for staff volunteers pick up outside Branford High School.

Pam Johnson/The Sound

BHS Class of 2020 co-advisors Alicia Loesche and Chris Stonier work on organizing sign distribution for staff volunteers pick up outside Branford High School. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)

3

BHS Dean of Students Dianne Dadio (left) explains sign set up to volunteer Wendy Nylan (right) a BHS English teacher. 

Pam Johnson/The Sound

BHS Dean of Students Dianne Dadio (left) explains sign set up to volunteer Wendy Nylan (right) a BHS English teacher. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)

4

BHS Class of 2020 co-advisor Chris Stonier sets up BHS Band instructor Mallory Legman with her delivery of lawn signs to seniors. 

Pam Johnson/The Sound

BHS Class of 2020 co-advisor Chris Stonier sets up BHS Band instructor Mallory Legman with her delivery of lawn signs to seniors. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)

5

BHS Class of 2020 co-advisor Alicia Loesche (center) heads out to deliver signs to a waiting volunteer's vehicle, as more signs are picked up by teacher Jenn Stackpole (at Jeep, right) from Dean of Students Dianne Dadio (left); while BHS guidance counselor Marian Montano (in silver car) readies her vehicle to receive signs for delivery. 

Pam Johnson/The Sound

BHS Class of 2020 co-advisor Alicia Loesche (center) heads out to deliver signs to a waiting volunteer's vehicle, as more signs are picked up by teacher Jenn Stackpole (at Jeep, right) from Dean of Students Dianne Dadio (left); while BHS guidance counselor Marian Montano (in silver car) readies her vehicle to receive signs for delivery. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)

Special Delivery: School Staff Shuttle Lawn Signs to Surprise Branford's Class of 2020

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On Wednesday, May 20,  264 commemorative lawn signs, one for each member of the BHS Class of 2020, were shuttled out to students' homes and proudly staked on front lawns by a small army of 40 educators, staff and administrative volunteers.

The boldly printed signs, done in school colors of red and white, read "Congratulations! BHS Class of 2020" topped by the BHS Hornet mascot and a field of stars.

Branford Superintendent of Schools Hamlet Hernandez and Assistant Superintendent Rachel Sexton were honored to be among the group that was out and about delivering signs during the morning hours of May 20.  Hernandez said the effort is one among several special acknowledgements being devised to help the BHS Class of 2020 receive well-deserved recognition, despite the challenges and changes created by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are in such extraordinary times, and it's such an incredibly special time in the lives of our high school seniors. That kind of intersection creates such mixed emotions," said Hernandez. "We want to be safe and want to honor the really significant milestone our young adults are about to be embarking on. So what we are thinking is how can we work with public health to make sure that we're being safe, and being role models around safety; and at the same time try to acknowledge, over a period of time and through a variety of actions, the milestones that our seniors are about to meet."

The signs were safely distributed by volunteers wearing masks, and placed into vehicles outside BHS by Class of 2020 co-advisors Alicia Loesche and Chris Stonier and Dean of Students Dianne Dadio, with oversight and additional help from BHS principal Lee Panagoulias. Panagoulias said the hands-on help is allowing everyone to show special appreciation to the Class of 2020.

"I'm really proud of how they've stepped up to let the kids know that they're all thinking about them," he said.  "I think everyone is looking for ways to celebrate our seniors. These are extraordinary times, and anything that we can do to let them know that we're thinking about them, we're going to try to do."

Panagoulias said the idea for the lawn signs project was generated after he and Hernandez met with senior students during a Zoom meeting, and also reviewed the results of a survey sent out to students.  One of the takeaways, said Panagoulias, is that "...the small things matter. So this is something small that we can do to let them know that we're thinking about them every day."

In another gesture to help celebrate the BHS Class of 2020, the district and school, together the Town of Branford, will soon hang a BHS Class of 2020 congratulatory banner over Main Street.

"What it underscores is that we're all working together to support our kids. It's always been a community effort; but something like this just brings that out more." said Panagoulias. "This has been as unique a challenge as a school, and as a global society, that we've ever faced. A lot of times when we're going through it, we don't see it. But I know five years from now, ten years from now, everyone will look back at this time and see how we came together."

While students have not been back in the school building since it closed in March, the BHS Class of 2020 will have one more chance to visit their alma mater this academic year. On May 19, families of seniors were notified that students will be allowed, in pre-arranged groups of two, to come to the school in the days following Memorial Day to receive their graduation cap and gown, said Hernandez.

Hernandez also shared the high school and central office are working together towards developing a virtual awards event for the Class of 2020, in place of the annual BHS program during which student scholarships and awards are presented. Information will be communicated as more develops.

While no information is yet available on other graduation celebration events; Hernandez said the district continues to gather input and assess ways graduation traditions may be undertaken for the Class of 2020 while meeting requirements of public health and safety guidelines. Any new details will be promptly shared with families, he said.

"We are trying to honor those traditions to the best of our ability, but safety and public health supersede everything," said Hernandez.





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