High school graduations in flux due to air quality, showers

Weather changes Norwich Free Academy graduation plans
Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 12:21 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2023 at 6:32 PM EDT
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ELLINGTON, CT (WFSB) - High school graduations across the state were in flux due to the air quality concerns that began earlier in the week and the possibility of afternoon showers.

Some made the decision for outdoor ceremonies while others moved inside on Friday.

Ellington High School planned to hold its graduation ceremony outside.

Graduation ceremony held Friday night in Ellington

Wethersfield High School also announced on Friday that its commencement will be outside at Wethersfield Cove. However, families were notified that if the weather does not cooperate due to potential showers, it may be pushed back to 7 p.m.

Norwich Free Academy planned to have its ceremony outside but moved it inside its alumni gym due to the air quality and threat of storms.

“All of our resources showed the threat of thunderstorms in this area, and we just couldn’t take that chance,” said Michael O’Farrell, Norwich Free Academy.

Carly Killingsworth and Julia Barry have been looking forward to today for years.

“It’s a little bittersweet, growing up, but I’m ready for the next chapter,” Carly said.

Their high school career started and ended with a curveball.

First, it was Covid, now it’s a last-minute change to graduation.

“I feel like the class of 2023 has gotten all of it, we’ve always had all the setbacks,” said Carly.

“It’s not an ideal situation and we know that, but we also know we can’t be outside in an open area with 4,000 people and the threat of lightning,” O’Farrell added.

The school decided early Friday morning to make the change.

Students originally got four tickets for the outdoor graduation.

Now, they’ll have two for inside the gym where the ceremony is happening and another two for a separate viewing area.

The ceremony is also being live-streamed online.

Friday’s air quality is much better than in the last few days.

School leaders say it’s more the rain threat that forced their hand.

“We know today it was supposed to be getting progressively better, so we were over one hump and then dealing with another,” O’Farrell said.

This is the first time in eight years that NFA has had to hold graduation inside.

East Hampton High School said its festivities will be outside; however, its gym will be open with a live stream for those with breathing issues.

The air quality concerns stemmed from wildfires that burned in Canada.

Smoke traveled south and created hazardous breathing conditions across parts of the country, including

Channel 3′s meteorologists said as of Friday, huge improvements to the air quality and visibility were made statewide.

“Most of the smoke has moved out of our region and you’ll be able to breathe easy for the rest of the afternoon,” said Channel 3 meteorologist Mike Slifer.

Read more about the forecast here.