Over the past two weeks 2524 local high school seniors who completed all their coursework and requirements for graduation have been engaged in one form or another of 2020 Drive-Through Graduation. No one could have imagined this just three months ago.
As the calendar turned to March members of the Class of 2020 locally were thinking of their upcoming prom, the excitement of the blossoming spring sports season, their last three months of high school leading up to important final examinations and, most importantly, graduation and the traditional events and celebrations surrounding the landmark occasion in their young lives that they would share with family and friends.
The blink of an eye
In the blink of an eye two weeks later almost all of that changed. Social distancing, Zoom, virtual learning, facemasks and shelter-in-place replaced play ball, corsages and tuxedoes, lunch on the quad with school friends for the final times and Grad Night.
The coronavirus pandemic gripped the world and ripped away the expectations of the final three months of their high school lives for 16-, 17- and 18-year-old seniors at local high schools.
In the past month or so after high school administrators, teachers and staff developed a curriculum and process to weather pandemic challenges from the learning process they also had to turn their attention to the end-of-the-year traditions that would normally occupy their attention. Not the least of these was graduation day, be it on their campus, or for Mt. Diablo Unified School District seniors, at the Concord Pavilion.
Practicality from a health and logistical standpoint were of utmost concern but judging from the looks of it local schools were able to throw in some creative elements to make graduation memorable in its own right for the Class of 2020.
Making new traditions
Carondelet and De La Salle still have plans—hopeful that conditions are appreciably loosened by health officials—of holding a more traditional graduation for their senior class if large public gatherings are possible later this summer. The neighboring Concord parochial schools had Senior Parades last month to honor their seniors.
Concord, Olympic and Ygnacio Valley high school used their school parking lots and grounds for Drive-Through Graduations. Each graduate in cap and gown with family members piled into a vehicle—many decorated with messages and balloons—to navigate the graduation course that included stops to get their diploma and have pictures taken. Lining the way for the Class of 2020 were teachers, staff and administrators waving and cheering for each grad.
Clayton Valley Charter, Northgate and Mt. Diablo highs utilized their stadiums as part of the ceremony. The Mt. Diablo High Drive-Through began in Hart Fairclough Stadium and ended on Grant Street on the steps of the English Building where students were announced and got their diploma and pictures.
CVCHS started its two-day ceremony in the school parking lots and culminated in Gonsalves Stadium on the brand-new turf surface under a tent to shield from near 100-degree heat.
Northgate also held its graduation in 14 hours over two days. Ten seniors at a time with their families walked into the school’s stadium in their close friend group for graduation recognition. A graduation video is posted on Northgate’s YouTube channel at https://bit.ly/NHSyoutube .
Contra Costa School of Performing Arts graduated all 28 of its seniors and has altered graduation plans two or three times, having scraped plans for a late summer or fall ceremony. The school’s second graduating class had a drive through at their campus in the Shadelands area of Walnut Creek to pick up their cap and gown in a fun, celebratory event and the school also did a caravan around the county to celebrate and give out yard signs.
Everyone remembers their high school graduation. The Class of 2020 will be no different, however they will be able to tell their children and grandchildren a tale that—hopefully—was uniquely 2020!
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Clayton Valley Charter High
Contra Costa School of Performing Arts
De La Salle High
Mount Diablo High
Ygnacio Valley High