As students return to school for another year under the shadow of COVID-19, Community Park Elementary School in Princeton’s graduating class of 2020 completed a project begun more than a year ago to commemorate their experience of learning in school and at home, as the coronavirus reshaped community life.
Titled Class of 2020 Legacy Path, the memorial stepping stone walkway, which undulates from the front of Community Park Elementary to the back, includes both physical and virtual elements, according to information provided by Ryan Lilienthal.
The PTO committee charged with organizing the Class of 2020 class gift, including Bevin Cahill, Sonia and Joe Gessner, Lilienthal and Heather Salkin, considered a host of ideas that might capture the student experience during this tumultuous year.
Lilienthal, parent of Jacob Lilienthal, who is now a seventh grader at Princeton Middle school, said in the statement, “After a year that started off routine, but unfolded into one of student separation and in isolation in remote learning, we wanted to do something special.”
Community Park, like each of Princeton’s elementary schools, found creative ways to celebrate its graduating students, including lawn signs and school drive-through graduation events.
It was at Community Park Elementary School’s drive-thru graduation that students were provided with stepping stone pavers to decorate and return the following week, according to the statement. The student stepping stones, along with ones for their teachers and principal, now comprise the Class of 2020 Legacy Path.
Alongside the stepping stone path are several QR codes, which link to a message from the principal and voices of the students sharing what learning at Community Park meant to them. In this way, these physical and virtual elements mimic the students’ physical and virtual learning experience, according to the statement.
“This unique legacy path was the product of parent and student collaboration; a way to memorialize a year like no other. It combines nature and tangible reminders of an experience that was virtual and remote,” Principal,Dineen Gruchacz said in the statement.
“For me, the path means thank you … that even years from now … I will always be grateful to Community Park,” student Leo Gessner said in the statement.