City Hill beginning new commencement tradition

NAUGATUCK — When the time comes for borough eighth graders to leave middle school behind this year and move on to high school, they will do so like no other class before.

Rather than holding a more traditional graduation ceremony, City Hill Middle School will be holding three separate recognition ceremonies next week to mark the students’ progression to high school.

“It’s not a graduation. It’s a recognition and we’re recognizing the kids’ completion of middle school,” City Hill Principal Christine Blanchard said.

Each of City Hill Middle School’s three eighth grade teams will hold a separate recognition ceremonies on the mornings of June 22, June 23 and June 24 respectively, followed by refreshments and other special activities.

The driving force behind the change was last year’s decision to merge Hillside and City Hill middle schools. The merger meant that all seventh and eighth graders in the borough now attend City Hill, making this year’s eighth grade class at City Hill about 390 students.

In the past, Blanchard explained the middle schools would hold graduations in separate venues in the town. With the schools now combined, she said it became difficult to hold a graduation ceremony that would accommodate all the students and their guests.

“We had to be creative and come up with a way to make it more available to parents and guests,” Blanchard said.

Beginning in February, City Hill Assistant Principal Deanna Chuka headed a committee which included teachers and members of the school’s parent teacher association, to explore the issue.

Chuka said the committee looked at how other school districts handle eighth grade commencement and took a lot of time to ensure the change was something that properly honored the moment.

Once the decision was made to hold separate ceremonies instead of a traditional graduation, Blanchard said the school sent home information to parents to notify them of the change.

The change wasn’t met favorably by all parents.

Chuka said she received some feedback from a few parents who expressed concerns over the move. However, she said, after the reasoning for the switch was explained the parents seemed to understand.

Blanchard said with the schools merging, it was felt this year is a new year and if there was a time to make a change, in a positive way, it was now. She said the school didn’t make the decision lightly and isn’t trying to downplay the importance of completing eight years of school.

Blanchard felt the new ceremony will be more personal for students and the start of something new in the borough.

“It’s a start of a new tradition and I think people will be pleased,” Blanchard said.