NEW PLYMOUTH - While novel coronavirus COVID-19 has disrupted commencement ceremonies across the country, the New Plymouth School District found a way to maintain social distancing and still give graduates a chance to walk the stage.

Since New Plymouth High School couldn’t use their football stadium this year due to Gov. Brad Little’s COVID-19 orders, the District used an alternative setting; They instead set up the graduation stage along the drop-off lane outside New Plymouth Elementary School, creating a drive-thru graduation ceremony for the 71 members of the Class of 2020.

Principal Dan Hull said the hardest part about doing things differently was the effort involved.

“I’ve done traditional for the past twenty years, and this has by far taken much more energy,” said Hull. “The bottom line, though, we still have to celebrate our kids and we’re trying to do the best we can … It’s a rite of passage.”

Speeches were transmitted online for parents to view and later purchase as a keepsake.

The afternoon ceremony began with a parade through downtown New Plymouth, with each of the graduating seniors riding along in their choice of vehicle, as driven by a member of their family. Friends, family and residents lined the sidewalks throughout the parade route. 

Vehicles in the parade were decorated as each graduate desired, with balloons and streamers, banners with their names on them, or even just picking a vintage vehicle to ride shotgun in. Several seniors even brought treats to hand out to bystanders and their children.

Following the parade, each driver dropped off their graduate to walk the stage, receive their diploma and then take a seat along the sidewalk for the tassel ceremony.

While the ceremony did disrupt traffic, New Plymouth Police and Fire vehicles helped ensure the parade and the tassel ceremony were conducted safely.

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