“Pomp and Circumstance” played as Faribault High School students walked across the stage in their gowns to receive their diplomas, and their families cheered in the crowd as teachers snapped photos.

But even though the class of 2020 experienced these signature moments, the coronavirus pandemic made their milestone experience different from anything FHS has ever hosted. With one senior per vehicle, students rode to FHS with their families and waited their turn to hear their name announced outside FHS.

Administration and teacher volunteer set up a drive-thru system in the FHS parking lot from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Students were invited to participate in the commencement according to their last names. The event also gave students a chance to drop off their iPads and textbooks and pick up their yearbooks.

All photos from the two commencement events will be spliced together for a video that will air at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 7 on FCTV.

Bailey Simon, a recent graduate of Faribault High School, didn’t expect her graduation ceremony to be anything special after the administration decided to shift the commencement to a virtual format. But just after walking across a small stage outside FHS and posing with cardboard cutouts of the administration team Thursday, she said, “It feels awesome. It feels amazing.”

Being able to see her art teacher, Jackie DeMarais, one last time before furthering her education at St. Cloud State University was the icing on the cake for Simon. Finally, she could return the hall pass she took from DeMarais’ class before schools closed in response to COVID-19.

FHS math teacher Claire Boatman volunteered to help manage the commencements. Around 30 staff members manned the different stations, directed traffic, marked off students’ names,and snapped photos.

“I think this is making it more personal for families, so they can really be a part of it with their child and hear their name as they walk across the stage,” said Boatman. “ … It’s short but really sweet, I think.”

As a teacher, Boatman said the individual commencements also provided a nice alternative to saying goodbye to her students virtually, where so much of the teacher-student interactions have happened in the past two months.

FHS Assistant Principal Joe Sage also commented on the personal feel of the ceremony, during which staff celebrated one student at a time.

“It has gone absolutely wonderfully,” said Sage. “I don’t think it could have been any better … It’s been really exciting to see kids smiling and enjoying this moment.”

But, there’s no denying that 2020 seniors still missed out on the camaraderie of a full capacity commencement. Waiting in her families’ vehicle before walking across the stage to receive her diploma, Ashley Sanchez said while she doesn’t mind the format FHS chose, she had wanted a traditional ceremony.

“I’d rather have it with all my friends,” said Sanchez. “I never got to say goodbye.”

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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