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New Hartford High School graduation attempts forced to close down, twice

It's been a chaotic and turbulent week for New Hartford High School Seniors and their parents. The high school tried to give the students a staggered graduation, over three days, at Utica's Stanley Theater. But that came to an end after day two.

Posted: Jun 2, 2020 6:13 PM
Updated: Jun 3, 2020 6:34 PM

NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. (UPDATED) -- It's been a chaotic and turbulent week for New Hartford High School Seniors and their parents. The high school tried to give the students a staggered graduation, over three days, at Utica's Stanley Theater. But that came to an end after day two. When asked if his office directed the ceremony to stop, Oneida County Executive, Anthony Picente, Jr., issued the following statement:

"Under the governor's executive order, schools are closed and venues such as the Stanley are not to be open under any circumstance. There are also currently no guidelines from the state on how school districts should conduct their graduations. During my discussions with our local school districts, both of those points were made abundantly clear, but unfortunately, the New Hartford Central School District chose not to be a part of those discussions."

Wednesday morning, parents of New Hartford seniors were on social media, asking other parents to call the county executive's office about the situation. By late morning, some posted that the graduation would go on, Wednesday, but at the high school. Then, those posts were deleted. The district superintendent and school principal didn't return our calls by 1:00pm. But between noon and 1:00, students could be seen walking in the high school wearing cap and gown. One of them was Ed Schmidt's son, Eddie.

"I'll tell you what, it was different, but it was very nice," said Ed Schmidt. "These seniors have worked 12, 13 years including kindergarden towards graduation and it is a big deal to them. It's a big deal to our kids and it's a big deal to us as parents, of course."
Schmidt added that social distancing was practiced throughout.

By 1 p.m., word got out that the governor's office had called the New Hartford School District and told them to shut it down. New Hartford School Superintendent Bob Nole's office confirms-the governor's office made the call. Eddie Schmidt is glad he got his milestone walk and pictures, but sad for his classmates who didn't.

"The school really did a great job of doing what they can under the circumstances to acomodate and make all the seniors feel special like they should. It's a big year for us," said Schmidt. "It's unfortunate some kids were cut short and didn't get the recognition they deserved."

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