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Burlington High School seniors celebrate in-person graduation

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 8:29 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It was a day of celebration for Burlington High School seniors. After a year of pandemic restrictions and a PCB-contaminated campus, the students were able to walk across the commencement stage Friday.

The final school bell chimed Friday for the Burlington High School class of 2021.

“I’m feeling really great, I’m really happy to be done,” said Will Belluche, a BHS senior.

Walking in front of the old Burlington High School, students made their way to the baseball field where they held their graduation in person, something that they thought wouldn’t happen just a few months ago.

“You don’t think about not never getting to have your graduation with your graduating class, so, I’m very appreciative,” said Lisa Ie, a new graduate.

The Class of 2021, like many Vermont students, not only faced the challenge of remote learning, but when they were allowed to go back in person last fall they faced additional hardships. Potential cancer-causing PCBs detected in the building prompted officials to close the campus again, forcing students to return to remote. They were finally able to return to class in March when a temporary campus opened in the former Macy’s downtown.

“You accepted the challenge of having your building close, moving to virtual schooling, and becoming the first class in history to graduate from a Macy’s during a pandemic,” said BSD Superintendent Tom Flanagan during Friday’s ceremony.

“No one knew that your bedroom would be your classroom. No one knew you would be competing in masks. No one knew many of you would be working as essential workers long before you had access to a vaccine,” said Dan Hagan, a BHS history teacher.

Students say graduating on their home turf was crucial to wrap up their high school careers. “The building has so much meaning to me -- as decrepit as it is -- it’s always going to mean a lot to me. I’m not as attached to Macy’s, so being back here is really important,” said senior Ariel Felcon.

“I think it was really bittersweet, just to have rehearsal here as well, just seeing our old gym, cause we haven’t been here all year,” said senior Bernadette Mukeba. She says the year of obstacles will prepare them for their next steps. “All the changes have caused us to adapt, and adversity makes you stronger.”

Where the next graduating class will hold their commencement ceremony is still up in the air. The school board approved building a new school and is looking for a potential site. Meanwhile, BHS students will continue attending classes at the downtown high school campus.

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