SOLEDAD — Drive-through graduation and promotion ceremonies will be held for students at Soledad High School and Main Street Middle School, respectively, to mark the end of their journeys at the schools.
Middle school students will promote from the eighth grade on June 4 and high school seniors will graduate on June 5.
“We are doing a social distanced, safe procedure,” said Randy Bangs, assistant superintendent of education services with the Soledad Unified School District. “Families want to be able to see it. It’s balancing that safety with a sense of celebration.”
Families are asked to arrive at Soledad High School parking lot during designated increment times in order to be staged into groups of no more than 50 vehicles within. The pre-determined groups will then use campus utility roads to move toward a station where the promoted or graduate will be presented with their certificate, then depart.
A picture station with a decorated frame will await seniors, where a photographer will take their photo without the need for anyone to leave their vehicle. Staff will be present to not only celebrate student achievements, but also to ensure all involved follow safety guidelines.
Bangs said there is no walking alternative due to safety issues and a need for social distancing. However, any students who are not able to make it to their ceremony will be able to obtain their certificate through the mail. A live stream will be provided by the district for those who wish to watch the ceremony online.
“Everybody would prefer an in-person ceremony, but that’s not feasible,” Bangs said. In lieu of traditional graduations and promotions, he said, “The principals of the respective schools did a survey to the students and parents.”
Bangs noted in-person ceremonies wouldn’t be possible until the fall, but even then the ability to conduct a traditional walk-through is unknown due to the ongoing nature of the Covid-19 pandemic. The survey found that most were in favor of the vehicular option, rather than delaying indefinitely.
“We got a sense of students wanting recognition sooner rather than later,” Bangs said. “These dates are the same dates the in-person ceremonies would have been. They’d prefer to celebrate in the moment.”
Drive-through ceremonies have been put in place by several other school districts nationwide, which is how Soledad drew inspiration for the idea, Bangs said.
While only a small number of families will be able to attend from inside a vehicle with a student, Bangs noted the virtual option of live streaming provides opportunity for more to watch.
Gowns for eighth graders and caps and gowns for seniors were ordered ahead of time, prior to the school closures, and have already been distributed to students so they can wear their ceremonial attire.