School and Police officials have finalized plans for this year’s Wilton High School graduation, set to begin at 1 p.m. this Saturday, June 13. This year, because of COVID-related concerns, the event has been changed from the traditional stadium event to a car procession that will wind through town on Saturday afternoon. Each graduate and his/her family will have to keep socially distant in their own car and form a car caravan through town, past three schools the students attended during their academic careers in Wilton.
Details have been communicated to families of the graduating seniors, but Lt. David Hartman, who oversees traffic safety for the Wilton Police Department, wanted to make sure all Wilton residents were aware of how this year’s graduation plans will impact the roads on Saturday.
The route will take graduates from Allen’s Meadow, heading southbound on Rte. 7/Danbury Rd., and turning right on Ridgefield Rd./Rte. 33. They’ll continue up Ridgefield Rd. until they turn right onto Middlebrook Farm Rd. and right again on School Rd. They’ll make their way down the hill, past Middlebrook and Cider Mill Schools, and then turn left onto Kristine Lilly Way. There, the graduates will head straight to the high school, where administrators will present graduates with their diplomas outside the school.
With 300-325 cars in the procession, Hartman estimates it will take approximately 25-30 minutes for all the graduates to travel from Allen’s Meadow to Ridgefield Rd., until Rte. 7/Danbury Rd. can be completely opened to other traffic.
He hopes the entire graduation will last for about two hours. “I spoke to Principal Bob O’Donnell about all this, we don’t want it to take too long to go through the whole thing because people have plans with their families whatever’s going on for their celebration. So, we’ll see how quickly they can do it–it depends on how long it takes to go through the presentation. It’s going to be up to how quickly school administrators can usher people through there.”
Some key points Hartman wants the public to know:
- The line of cars is intended to flow uninterrupted, and other traffic will be restricted and detoured from much of the path of the procession. Three officers will be part of the procession–one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one at the end. “Depending on how long the caravan takes to proceed, if we need to break the procession and let the traffic go for a little bit, we’re going to split it at that officer in the middle,” says Hartman. “When they continue again, we’ll have an officer leading the next group and they won’t be wandering aimlessly.”
- On Rte. 7/Danbury Rd., between Allen’s Meadow and Ridgefield Rd., the right-hand, southbound lane will be restricted to only cars in the graduation procession. Other traffic heading south on Rte. 7 can continue in the left-hand, southbound lane.
- During the procession, other cars will not be permitted to turn left onto Ridgefield Rd. from Northbound Danbury Rd. Nor will other cars be able to come out of side streets on any part of the route to break into the procession.
- CERT volunteers will be deployed along the route in addition to police officers. If any gap is created by police, CERT or officers will direct other traffic.
- Only cars in the procession will be able to access Ridgefield Rd. northbound during the procession; all other traffic will be restricted from Ridgefield Rd. until the procession ends.
- For graduates and families in the cars, Hartman asks that people prioritize safety. Drivers and passengers are requested to stay in their cars during the procession. “We really don’t want people on the sidewalks or getting out of cars into the road, even if the cars are stopped. I don’t want a situation where somebody gets hit or hurt. We don’t want to take away from the special event,” Hartman says.
- Wilton Police and Wilton CERT have asked that all families arrive at their assigned staging areas starting at 11:45 a.m. and before 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. It had previously been set to extend to 12:45 p.m., but has been changed to ensure that the procession departs on time. All cars need to arrive by 12:30 p.m. at the latest.
- Officials are hoping for the best and that the procession will proceed in as timely a way as possible. However, Hartman recommends that participants consider bringing something to snack on and drink to stay hydrated. “You might be in the line of cars for two hours [or more],” he estimates.
- Portable restrooms will be available on Kristine Lilly Way for participants if anyone needs to get out to use a bathroom. But unless someone is using the portable restroom, participants are asked to stay in their cars.
- Police officers and CERT volunteers will be directing participants as they turn from School Rd. onto Kristine Lilly Way into both lanes to form two lines. “There will be two lanes crossing over into the high school. The left lane will stop at a station at the front door of WHS, and the right lane and will be directed to the second station further down towards the Field House.
- SURPRISE: With the recent announcement by Gov. Ned Lamont relaxing restrictions on graduation ceremonies, school officials have changed plans to allow students to exit their vehicles to receive diplomas. Graduates will walk across one of two stages set up.One will be set up at the front entrance of WHS, for graduates in the left lane, and the other will be set up by the Clune Center for cars in the right lane. Hartman says cars will pull up six at a time, and students will be able to get out of the cars and line up–continuing to socially distance–to cross the stage where they will receive the diploma and be photographed.
Both stages and areas will be decorated and a loudspeaker system will announce student names. Afterward, students will return directly to their cars so that the procession may continue for others who are waiting.
In adherence to the guidelines, students should wear masks when exiting the car, crossing the stage, getting their diploma and gift, and returning to their car. Students will be allowed to briefly remove their masks for the professional photo. Administrators handing out diplomas will wear masks and gloves.
- Hartman recommends that anyone who wants to cheer graduates from along the procession route should find parking ahead of time. Parking will be available at the Wilton Train Station and Comstock Community Center. Hartman suggests speaking to businesses ahead of time to park safely at a private business. “It’s not to be on the road because we don’t want to create any hazards on the road or additional congestion.
- Spectators are asked to refrain from parking on the side of the road on the procession route in an effort to reduce road congestion. In addition, parking on School Rd. near the tennis courts is not encouraged as it will be difficult for vehicles to leave until the conclusion of the procession and graduation ceremony.
- Spectators are recommended to watch along the sidewalks on School Rd., Ridgefield Rd. and Danbury Rd.
- Hartman says that spectators are reminded to maintain social distance and wear masks.
- School officials have asked that spectators do not approach school property near the stages where students will receive their diplomas, other than families in their cars. This is to abide by guidelines and to ensure the procession’s progress, we appreciate
- The Parks and Recreation Department has announced that all facility use after 12 noon on Saturday, June 13, has been cancelled due to the Wilton High School Graduation Procession. The tennis courts, the Stadium field, the track, and the varsity baseball/softball fields will be closed at 11:45 a.m. for all use.
- Virtual Ceremony and Livestream: Wilton Educational TV, the student-run district-wide studio program that produces BOE meetings, sports games, and several other events, will be broadcasting live all graduation events on June 13. There are two events that the public will be able to watch beginning at 10 a.m. on June 13:
1) The virtual ceremony is a pre-recorded ceremony featuring speeches and musical performances, just like a traditional WHS graduation ceremony.
2) A livestream of the procession will also be available to view and is going to include several live camera feeds. These include a few at the high school campus, one at Kristine Lilly Way, one at Cider Mill, and one at Middlebrook. Additionally, there will be live conversational coverage of the procession by Wilton High School’s 2020-21 Morning Warrior hosts, Ryan Siegel and Kat Corrigan.
Both events will take place on the Wilton Educational TV YouTube channel beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The broadcast will also take place on local Cablevision channel 78, also beginning at 10 a.m.