Lompoc Unified School District holds drive-through celebrations
A festive frenzy of balloons, bright-colored tents, yard signs covered in glitter, pom-poms, horns honking from cars chalked with names and congratulations, and an enthusiastic, cheery mood without a cloud in the sky, despite the circumstances.
These were the scenes Thursday at Lompoc and Cabrillo high schools.
Because of the social distancing requirements amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lompoc Unified School District postponed its 2020 graduation ceremonies.
However, to still celebrate the seniors on what would have been their big day, both high schools held drive-through celebrations where each student had the opportunity to cross the stage, get their picture taken and receive their diploma, all while abiding by the social distancing rules.
“While we know there may not be the traditional pomp and circumstance, providing the students this opportunity, in some fashion, has been a top priority for us as the year comes to a close,” Superintendent Trevor McDonald said in a press release.
Lompoc High School held its drive-through event in the parking lot, where one graduate per car along with their immediate family members entered on one side and weaved through lines of cars and tents of faculty and staff members.
The faculty and staff radiated with pride as they cheered and clapped for the graduates proceeding through the lot. At the end, there were two stages available for graduates to hop out and walk across while their name was announced and their photo was taken in their cap and gown.
Masks were worn by everyone besides the seniors walking across the stage.
“Faculty, staff and parents all came together to make this the best day that we can for seniors,” said Paul Bommersbach, principal of Lompoc High School. “I have a wonderful team to put this on for our graduates.”
“It’s not normal, obviously, but it’s the best that we can do under the circumstances,” said Casey Brooks, a social studies and psychology teacher and the cross country and softball coach at Lompoc. “They deserve it. The kids have worked hard. They deserve some sort of celebration.”
Bree Jansen, an English and performing arts teacher at Lompoc, snapped candid photos of the graduates as they each experienced their moments on stage. Holding the title she described as the unofficial social media manager for Lompoc, she said she was happy to support her students and run back and forth between stages to take pictures.
“I think it’s amazing that so many people came together to make the absolute best out of the situation and to recognize our seniors but doing it within the regulations put in place,” Ms. Jansen said.
Cabrillo High School held a similar set-up. Beginning with a vibrant fanfare on Constellation Road, complete with DJ Hecktik blasting music, graduates drove past the school and into the football stadium. With “Pomp and Circumstance” playing over speakers, Cabrillo seniors got to walk across the stage and get their photo taken as well.
David Riley, who teaches college and career readiness at Cabrillo, said the staff did a “bang-up” job.
“I’m bummed about the circumstances, but as far as the graduation is concerned, we did the best we possibly could for them,” Mr. Riley said. “But we always want to give them more.”
“We want to honor these kids and celebrate the troupers that they are for getting through it,” said Scott Schaller, a graphic arts teacher. “They had their world pulled out from underneath them, and it’s not a fair thing.”
Marti Schaller, a librarian at Cabrillo, agreed, saying her heart breaks for the class of 2020 who missed so much at the end of their senior year.
“We’re just happy to be out here celebrating our kids in any way possible,” she said. “They deserve to be sent off with all the love and affection we have.”
Mr. Brommersbach, the Lompoc High School principal, said the school district is hopeful for an in-person ceremony on the tentative date of Aug. 14, but the administration will wait to see the nature of the pandemic as the date approaches.