By: Olivia Armstrong, Writer / Follow South Jersey News Reporting Intern
BRIDGETON, N.J. — Bridgeton Public Schools’ plans for graduation will resemble some form of normalcy this year.
New Jersey, during its efforts to roll back COVID-19-related safety restrictions, changed the definition of “large venue” to include any place with 1,000 fixed seats or more. Large venues are permitted to operate at 50% capacity. Bridgeton’s high school football stadium has a listed capacity of 1,316, so under the new definition of “large venue,” it will be able to host semi-normal graduation ceremonies next month.
“With news of the governor’s increased outdoor crowd limit, we are now looking to offer a more traditional ceremony outside at our Robert Thompson Sports Complex, Jim Hursey Stadium,” Keith Miles, Superintendent of Bridgeton Public Schools, said. “We plan to limit the number of tickets issued per graduate based on the outdoor crowd size limit in play at the time of the ceremony, which is likely to continue to change as we near graduation.”
At this time, Superintendent Miles said the district is planning to divide its class of 2021 into two separate groups of approximately 150 graduates. Holding two separate commencement ceremonies will allow for each student to have three or four spectators. If the approximately 300-student class of 2021 was honored at one ceremony, each student would only be allowed to invite one or two spectators. Both of these ceremonies will take place on June 21.
With New Jersey’s 50% capacity limit for large venues, Bridgeton’s high school football stadium would be allowed to hold 658 people for a commencement ceremony. The 658 figure includes the students who are graduating along with their families and any other guests in attendance. Each family will be seated approximately six feet apart, and those who live together in the same household will be seated together as a group. New Jersey hasn’t lifted its mask mandate yet, so everyone in attendance must keep their masks on at all times.
The class of 2020’s graduation ceremony for Bridgeton High School was a drive-through event, but this year’s celebrations will be much closer to normal.
“Graduates will have the experience of walking across the stage while being celebrated by their families, friends, educators, and community. It’s been a year like no other for our students, and we are excited that we can give the class of 2021 the type of graduation our students deserve,” Superintendent Miles said.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.