By Derek Wilson
Prom dances, concerts, sports events, homecoming … so many events that make the final year of high school so memorable have been wiped out by campus closures. Despite shelter-in-place ordinances and continuing COVID-19 concerns, graduation ceremonies have been saved.
One of the greatest walks ever has been turned into a drive-thru, but that’s the best suggestion to save the graduation ceremonies for high school seniors amid shelter-in-place orders. San Rafael, Terra Linda, Madrone and Redwood high schools will hold drive-thru graduation ceremonies at Marin Civic Center. Novato, San Marin, Tamalpais, Drake, Marin Academy and Branson are planning drive-thru ceremonies on their campuses.
These ceremonies are arranged in accordance with guidelines set forth by Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis and Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke.
Tamalpais Union High School District Superintendent Tara Taupeier wrote: “The class of 2020 has lost so much of what one comes to expect at the end of their time in high school-prom, awards night, graduation and just being with friends to celebrate all of their hard work. I am so proud of our seniors who gave back to their communities during this time and came up with creative ways to celebrate the end of their high school careers. They are a wonderful group of young adults and we will forever remember them.”
Students have hardly seen each other or their teachers except by virtual presence since schools were shut down amid fears of the spread of the COVID-19 virus in March. The chance to enjoy a shared experience — even with safe physical distancing — means a lot to students, parents and teachers.
“High school graduation is a momentous occasion for our seniors and their families,” San Rafael City School s Superintendent Jim Hogeboom wrote in a May 26 letter to families. “It is a ritual that marks a pivotal turning point in our students’ young lives as they transition from the safety net of their K-12 experiences to the independence of life after high school.”
The logistics of organizing drive-thru graduation ceremonies presented yet another challenge for schools, which have been forced to use Zoom and other virtual channels to find new ways of teaching, presenting student concerts and projects, and just maintaining connections with students and educators.
Some schools are dividing their graduation ceremonies into smaller groups over the period of one, two, or even three days. San Rafael, Terra Linda and Madrone schools will all hold their ceremonies on June 13 at Marin Civic Center. San Rafael will have graduations at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Madrone will also have its ceremony at 12:30 p.m.Terra Linda will have graduations at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.
Hogeboom highlighted the guidelines for San Rafael, Terra Linda and Madrone graduation:
* Each graduate is permitted one car to attend with immediate family only.
* Car windows may be rolled down and convertibles may have the tops down, but all family members must remain in the car with a mask on.
* The graduating senior is the only person allowed to leave the car.
* No student may leave the perimeter of the car at any time.
Other schools, such as Tam, Drake and Marin Academy, will direct cars through campus to a designated space for graduates to receive their diplomas before continuing along the ceremony route. Novato and San Marin graduates one by one will be allowed to leave their cars to take the stage, receive their diplomas, stand for photos and then return to their cars and leave the reception area. Families can take photos from their cars.
This might not be the last school event for the Class of 2020. Some schools are already planning to invite graduates back home for prom in 2021, in conjunction with prom for the Class of 2021.
By Derek Wilson