Ignacio Elementary School staff put on a socially distanced, drive-thru graduation ceremony to celebrate kindergarten students while preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Friday’s event served as a precursor for other graduations in the Ignacio School District during the COVID-19 era. Graduating seniors will also have a drive-thru ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday in the high school parking lot for parents and seniors only. All of the ceremonies were designed to follow public health guidelines meant to limit in-person contact and prevent viral transmission.
“Even though they don’t get to participate in graduation the way we would usually do it, at least they still get to have closure to the end of our kindergarten year,” said Denise Richmond, an Ignacio kindergarten teacher. “It’s a whole new experience for us and them, but we still got to do something.”
Students spent the last week of school doing craft activities, such as making graduation caps and decorating their cars, to prepare for the celebration.
Families drove the decorated vehicles through the school parking lot, escorted by the Ignacio Police Department. They stopped by three booths where staff members helped them drop off district supplies, pick up diplomas and personal items, and take pictures with their teachers – all without leaving the car.
“This is the first time I’ve seen them since March. It feels so good because I just miss them so much,” Richmond said, tearing up. “This is the only real time I get to see them. It seems unreal.”
Most teachers wore masks and gloves as a precaution, but they were still adjusting to the preventive measures. Occasionally, they would remove the masks to pose for photos or ease the discomfort caused by the mask. When one student started crying during the drive-thru, her teacher gave her a comforting hug.
“She’s been through a lot this year, more than I can express. In that situation, I’m not going to worry about social distancing, I’m going to comfort my student,” said Tracy Strohl, who has taught kindergarten for 24 years. “People are human, and we’re all learning this new phase of our lives.”
Strohl said the staff worked to comply with public health guidelines for the event, and overall, the celebration went smoothly.
The event marked the end of a difficult semester for students. Richmond talked with all of her students virtually before the ceremony to say congratulations and offer a sense of closure.
“I told them they have grown so much, and it was just amazing to watch them flourish,” Richmond said.