It was a graduation with a difference for the sixth class boys at Togher Boys’ National School yesterday evening with a special drive-in ceremony.
Through the combined efforts of the staff, the Parents’ Association and members of the local community, students at the school were able to reunite as a collective for the first time in months, in a safe and socially distanced manner.
Parents drove into the community yard adjacent to the school where they parked up two metres apart. The sixth class students then stood outside the cars in their uniforms whilst the parents watched from inside their cars.
Speaking to The Echo ahead of the ceremony, Sinéad Moynihan, Deputy Principal and sixth class teacher at the school, said it was through the school’s strong relationship with the Parents’ Association that the event was made possible.
“What happened initially is we wanted to mark the occasion as best we could so we held an online graduation. It’s been a difficult time for the students as they’ve missed out on things like their school tour, on soccer tournaments and on spending the last few months together.
"We have an excellent relationship with the parents and it was through the Parents’ Association that we decided to have the drive-in graduation to give the boys a chance to see each other in a safe way. They haven’t been able to mingle with each other in months so for them to have the opportunity to be able to wave to their friends will be fantastic,” she said.
Ms Moynihan said it has been “a pleasure and a privilege” to teach the 29 sixth class students.
“They really are a lovely bunch of boys and we as a school community will miss them. The boys should be commended for their resilience and the way they coped with the situation. Of course, it’s not how we wanted to end the year, but they have dealt with everything so well” she said.
Ms Moynihan paid special thanks to Community Gardaí who helped ensure the drive-in ceremony was properly socially distanced. She also thanked Carolyn Miller, the Chairperson of the Parents' Association for coordinating the organisation of the drive-in ceremony.
“Carolyn is a dedicated member of our school and community who works tirelessly on behalf of the entire community,” Ms Moynihan said.
“The positive side of the lockdown was that it highlighted the great relationship between the school and the Parents' Association. We’ve always had a great relationship but it came to the fore during Covid,” she continued.
Throughout lockdown, teachers kept in constant contact with families, through Microsoft Teams and weekly phone calls to ensure no one felt isolated. The school meals programme also continued. Yesterday evening, the school and Parents’ Association pulled out all the stops to ensure the sixth class boys had a fitting send off.
There were a number of addresses to the students wishing them well on their new journey in secondary school. Speakers included Principal Kieran Kelly, Chairperson of the Board of Management, Niall Cahalane, Father Ben Hodnett, Ruth McSweeney, who spoke on behalf of the parents, and Ethon Varian, a past pupil who plays for Stoke City.
Premier League player John Egan also recorded a video message to the boys which was included in their online graduation video. “Although it’s been a difficult time we wanted to end the year on a feel good factor,” said Ms Moynihan.