Delco kindergarten graduation goes on in-person despite fuel spill

BROOKHAVEN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Because of a fuel spill, the school year at Coebourn Elementary is ending the same way it started - virtually.

However school officials said if the pandemic has taught them anything, it's how to pivot.

And they found a way to make kindergarten graduation happen in person this year through the help of the community.

"Very grateful for the borough," said Michelle Harris, a parent of a kindergartner.

Kindergarten graduation was able to happen Wednesday inside the Brookhaven Municipal Building, since Coebourn Elementary has been closed this week (which is the last week of school), because of a fuel spill Friday night at the Gas-N-Go gas station located next to the school.

Many parents said they were relieved graduation could still happen in-person, even if it wasn't at school.

"I'm so happy," said parent Dorcas Nyarkoh.

Officials are estimating anywhere between 4,000 to 4,500 gallons of fuel possibly contaminated the environment during the spill.

"We were scared it wasn't going to happen; the kids have been through so much this year," said parent Corinne Capuano.

Close to 50 kindergartners collected their awards and sang songs for parents.

"We learned new things," said kindergarten student Angela Capuano.

RELATED: Fuel spill in Brookhaven, Pa. forces school to go virtual for last week of classes

Teresa Ford, the principal of Coebourn Elementary, stressed how important it was that students have an in-person graduation this year, since they couldn't last year because of the pandemic.

"After coming off last year with the pandemic, and our children not having any closure, it's really hard on our children and our families, and it was so important today that we could come together," said Ford.

Eric Kuminka, the assistant superintendent for Penn-Delco School District, said the students have kept a positive attitude despite the last week of school not being in-person.

"The kids are so resilient, they wanted to make sure they attended all their Zoom meetings this week," said Kuminka.

Brookhaven's council president, Terry Heller, told Action News because it will take an estimated four to six months to remove the fuel, there's no word yet if students will be able to return to Coebourn in the fall.

"It seeped into the drain that runs under the school, I hope I have that right, and the majority of it was retained by the retention pond on Coebourn school's property," said Heller.

Heller added that he's calling this a fuel spill that caused a local environmental disaster.

Coebourn staff is trying to plan something in-person for all the students on Friday, their last day of school, but the details are still being worked out. This would include the remainder of students getting their yearbooks.
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