Parents checked phones and younger siblings fidgeted as they awaited the start of Newtown Middle School's Moving Up ceremony Thursday night at Western Connecticut State University's O'Neill Center.
Backstage, teachers organized the former eighth-graders into groups by cluster. Boys fiddled with ties and adjusted boutonnieres, girls smoothed skirts and brushed back hair.
Nervous laughter circulated as the beginning notes of "Pomp and Circumstance" played. Students, who minutes before were laughing and joking with friends, somberly marched in line to their seats.
After the solemn speeches and special awards, attendees were witness to a moment of levity. Newtown Middle School Principal Diane Sherlock announced, "WestConn has always made us feel welcome. Well tonight, they've made us feel especially welcome."
Alluding to the Middle School's ongoing issues with roof leaks, Sherlock gestured toward the stage floor and noted puddles of water caused by the roof leaking from the day's heavy rains. Sherlock, Newtown Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson and Newtown High School Principal Charles Dumais spread white towels on the puddles and the ceremony resumed.
A total of 456 eighth-graders said goodbye to their past as they shook hands with Sherlock and looked to their future as they shook hands with Dumais.