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Bristol Eastern seniors dodge diploma disaster

Katie Jordan and Joe Keo graduate from Bristol Eastern High Schoo. )YJI)

BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Seniors at Bristol Eastern High School have put up with noise, dust and mysterious fumes all year, but they nearly faced the ultimate indignity: a graduation ceremony held at their arch rival.

Officials spoke recently of moving the ceremony to Bristol Central High School or elsewhere so construction work could get underway on the gym floor.

But thanks to a successful scramble by school and city officials last week, diplomas will get handed out at Eastern like always.

The problem arose because of the need to renovate both of Eastern’s gyms, including the one where graduation ceremonies take place. If both were turned over to the construction workers at the same time, officials said, there would be no place inside the school to hand out diplomas.

A panel overseeing the $40 million construction project at the high schools explored the possibility of having Eastern’s graduation at Central, Memorial Boulevard Middle School or in a large tent outside of Eastern.

“The graduation issue is something that weighed very heavily on the committee,” said school business manager William Smyth.

He said that members of the panel agreed that none of Eastern’s seniors would want to hold their graduation ceremony at their rival school.

Eastern Principal V. Everett Lyons said that having the ceremony outside in a tent would be too risky because of the threat bad weather might pose. Lyons said he didn’t want to plan on an outdoor ceremony.

“Then the committee said ‘no, we’re not going to do that,'” Smyth said.

School Superintendent Ann Clark said, “We’re in charge of this project, and we’ll be having the graduation as usual in the gymnasium at Eastern.”

“It was the recommendation of the administrators to turn over only one gym,” Smyth said, and then let contractors have the main gym after graduation.

By jiggering the construction schedule to allow graduation to go on as planned at Eastern, it means work on the large gym won’t be completed until December — drawing out an already long construction process even further.

Plans call for the small gym at Eastern to be handed over to contractors on April 2. It should be back in action by Oct. 10.

Work on the large gym will start July 7 and continue until Dec. 6, under the current timetable. It’s getting a new floor, bleachers and more.

Officials said that they don’t expect any more problems like this to arise in the future.

“After they’ve done this they won’t have to worry about it anymore, because they only do a renovation like this every 20 years or so,” said city Councilman Ken Scott.

Suzanne Gregorczyk is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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