EASTON, Md. – High school graduation can be a time of joy and anxiety in the most normal of circumstances, but few graduating classes have had the whirlwind experience of the Class of 2021.
The graduating classes of 2020 had many of its year-end celebrations scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic, including graduation, but this year’s class dealt with uncertain scheduling, planning and safety precautions from the first day of school.
At Ss. Peter and Paul, the last year for seniors came with the knowledge that next year’s group would be the first to walk the halls of a gleaming new high school. It’s part of an $18 million “Sacred Vision” program that would produce the new school, athletic fields and parish Family Life Center.
The complex, being built by Willow Construction, is next to Ss. Peter and Paul Church off Route 50 in Easton. But it would all remain on the drawing board for Class of 2021.
Then came January when school board chair Peggy Wilson and other leaders began thinking about the details of graduation. And the dream began. This year’s graduating class had been part of the official groundbreaking last year and school officials included them in as many ways as possible.
“But they knew they weren’t going to be in the new school,” Wilson said.
Wilson began speaking with the builder and they decided to try to rearrange the work schedule. After making those adjustments, it was off to the governing bodies in search of a temporary certificate of occupancy if just for the auditorium portion of the school.
Final word on that came through last week and the Class of ’21 on May 26 officially became the first to graduate from the new Ss. Peter and Paul High School.
“This is so cool,” said Wilson, as finishing touches were applied in advance of the ceremony to honor the latest 46 graduates of SSPP. Bishop Malooly was among those conferring diplomas. “It was amazing how everything came together.”
Officials had a backup plan to graduate in the parish church, but this quickly became the best option.
Wilson’s daughter Daria is part of the graduating class. She asked her daughter if it would be meaningful. She ‘Mom, I think it would be really special.’”
Pastor Father James Nash told the assembled gathering in the auditorium it was appropriate reward for those who have sacrificed so much.
“For all of us it has been a very difficult time and has drained the life from so many,” he said.
“You truly have been the light on the mountaintop for us,” he told the seniors. “I am so unbelievably proud of you.”
The new high school building will replace what was supposed to be a temporary structure behind the elementary school that has served as its home since the mid-1990s. It was remodeled after a fire in 2013. When the high school opened in 1958, it was housed in the elementary school.
Fewer than 200 students currently attend the high school, but the new school is built to accommodate 275, Wilson said. In addition to the new educational space, the site will include a sports complex with two lacrosse/soccer fields, tennis courts, a baseball diamond and a softball field.