Edwardsburg High School to host drive-thru graduation

EDWARDSBURG — The administration at Edwardsburg High School held out as long as it could in hopes of having a “normal” graduation at Leo Hoffman Field.

However, with so many things still up in the air as far as mass gatherings go due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Edwardsburg Principal Ryan Markel announced this week that graduation would be on June 28 in the student parking lot.

Markel announced the decision in a letter that was posted on the district’s Facebook page. He said that several plans were developed to how best celebrate the Class of 2020.

“We knew we had to come up with a ceremony,” he said. “Our original ceremony was supposed to be May 31. Obviously, we could not do that. We held out hope that we could have everybody here. We knew we were not going to have a traditional graduation. Our hope was to have something on the football field where kids could bring two to four parents.”

Currently, the state of Michigan does not allow more than 50 people to gather indoors, while no more than 500 people can gather outdoors. In both cases, proper social distancing guidelines must be maintained.

Also, state guidelines say that people who are not from the same family must maintain 6 feet between one another. Organizers also limit the number of people per venue to 25 percent of capacity, or 500 people, whichever is smaller.

As guidelines seem to change daily, Markel and the Edwardsburg administration decided to scrap the plan to use the football field. The new plan does its best to allow graduates to celebrate with several family members in attendance, Markel said.

“We did not want to push it way back to July because we have kids who have left for college or kids who are in the military,” Markel said. “We had to pick a date. We had about five different plans. Ultimately, we decided to do the parking lot graduation. The main reason, if we did it on the football field and we have 203 graduates, each of them would only be able to bring one parent in order to stay within the executive order from the governor.”

Edwardsburg’s plan will include student speakers and recorded performances from the band and choir. Graduates will walk across the stage and receive their diplomas in their caps and gowns.

The ceremony will be broadcast on a giant video board and will be streamed live on 88.3 FM with live broadcasts on Facebook and YouTube.

Family members of the graduate may attend in person, but must remain in their cars, while other family members will have to watch via social media.

“I’m encouraging families to decorate their vehicles, stand up in their sunroof or the back of a truck to be seen and cheer for their graduate,” Markel said. “Honk horns or shoot streams and celebrate.”

Family members will not be allowed to get out of their vehicles. Once the ceremony is completed, students are encouraged to parade through the village to celebrate their achievements.

Markel said configuring the parking lot was interesting.

“This is kind of funny,” he said. “We had about 15 people that here that day come out and we called everyone in the district and said ‘hey, bring your cars to the parking lot.’ It took about a half hour to 45 minutes to figure out if I have big SUV or I have a small Ugo, I do not want to be stuck behind that. So, we had to checkerboard it so that everybody would still be able to see. It was definitely a district effort.”

Listed are some things that students and parents need to know before attending the graduation ceremony:

• One vehicle per graduate will be admitted. The parking lot will open at 6 p.m. for graduates and their families only. Students must be in cap and gown to enter the parking lot.

• Edwardsburg Public Schools administration will be guiding the cars to the appropriate parking locations in the parking lot. It has taken appropriate measures to space parking accordingly so that the ceremony will be visible for all graduates.

• Only vehicles with two axles will be allowed in the student parking lot. No trailers, motor homes or alternative vehicles will be permitted.

• There will be spots reserved for the top 10 students in the front row.

• At the conclusion of the ceremony, all vehicles will be escorted through the village in parade fashion.

• Graduation practice will take place with all seniors at 9 a.m. on June 26. These procedures and how to line up for their diploma will be reviewed at the time.

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