Charlottesville High School seniors got to walk across the graduation stage, take selfies and celebrate the future this week — they just had to do it from a distance.
On Thursday and Friday, CHS seniors were able to take a “Victory Lap” around the school to celebrate their final year before going off to career or college.
They did it one car at a time — some festooned with balloons or bearing signs proclaiming love and congratulations — and one family per car, with a maximum of 12 cars for each 30-minute block.
With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down schools, the Class of 2020 was forced to improvise its celebration.
“Despite the unusual circumstances of this season, we are committed to celebrating the CHS Class of 2020,” school officials said on the Charlottesville City Schools website. “Sadly, this event is not for socializing. You may see staff or friends you wish to speak with, [but] be friendly from a distance and be mindful of any cars behind you.”
To honor graduates, and give them at least some sort of celebration of their achievements, officials developed the Victory Lap around the school, complete with a stage, faux diploma and an opportunity to wear caps and gowns purchased prior to during the virus-fueled lockdown.
Staff and community members cheered as cars pulled into the high school.
The lap included selfie stations so that family members could join students in photos or get out of the car and take a picture or two of their own.
Then, cars dropped seniors off at a designated spot and, while family remained in the vehicle, students picked up their blank diploma cover, walked to the stage and then across it as their names were announced.
Family members were encouraged to pull the vehicle nearer to the stage to watch and take pictures or video.
Seniors signed up for time slots on either day. School volunteers at the makeshift ceremonies wore face masks but seniors and family members were allowed not to wear masks in photographs.
All event workers were instructed to wear masks and keep at least a 6-foot distance.
School officials will release a graduation video at 7 p.m. June 4 on the school division’s Facebook page and on Channel 14. The video’s showing will mark the official graduation date, after which actual diplomas will be mailed to the students, officials said.