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Danville High to host drive-thru graduation

Danville High School seniors will have a graduation ceremony, although it will not be the traditional service.
Principal Thad Elmore said the DHS Class of 2020 will have a special celebration on Friday, May 22, at 6 p.m. The ceremony will be a drive-thru event, and it’s how students chose to celebrate.
“We’ve worked with city commissioners, the city manager, and parks and rec, just trying to really coordinate everything, and of course make sure we follow the protocol and health expectations. That’s first and foremost,” Elmore said of the plan.
The drive-thru graduation will take place at Millennium Park, and each student will be allowed to have three vehicles of family attend. Elmore said people will be required to remain in their vehicles, and plans are being made to allow for the vehicles to pull near the stage as their graduate is recognized.
“The kids have really streamlined things. We had a virtual option, we had a drive-through option, we had three or four different options. This was an idea by senior Trey Dawson. He’s the one who said, ‘Hey, let’s do the park,’” Elmore explained.
Dawson said in an email that he thought the park would be a great location.
“I feel like this is the best option we could have chosen for the time being. It has the right amount of excitement to feel like a ‘graduation’ but also be safely distanced,” Dawson said.
Although the attendance will be limited, Elmore said there are plans in place to let more people experience the graduation ceremony. He said it will air on local radio station WHIR AM 1230, and also be broadcast on Facebook Live.
“It’s a very unique time for them, and I told them and the board, we can’t understand how they feel. I’ve got emails from students, early morning and late night, just trying to get things wrapped up and trying to understand what the process is going to be,” Elmore said. “For many seniors, that transition time from high school to college or career – for some it’s excitement, and for some it’s the unknown. When you add in the situation here, where you can’t be around what you’ve known for the past 12 years, that even provides more stress.”
The drive-thru graduation will feature some surprises for the seniors, and Elmore said some local groups and businesses have offered services to help make the event special. He said Centre College is providing the stage that will be used, and a local photographer has offered to photograph the graduation at no charge. Some other events are being considered, but Elmore said some could be affected by the weather, so those will have to be determined closed to the date.
“Everybody is doing their part – the board, the city, community members. We just need 75 (degrees) and sunny weather, and we’ll be in good shape,” he said.
Elmore added that in an attempt to reduce stress for students, regular online meetings have been conducted through Google each Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., and more are scheduled.
Although students are having a drive-thru graduation now, plans are also in place for an actual in-person graduation later this year. Elmore said a target date of Dec. 19 has been set.
Another celebration for students of all grades will be an awards night. Elmore said this event will be taped and then broadcast on the school’s Facebook page May 20 at 7 p.m. to recognize the accomplishments of all Danville High School students for the school year.
“All of this is student led. The students have a lot of input in what we’re doing,” he added.
Samantha Sallee is president of the Danville High School Class of 2020, and she said school leadership has been a huge help to herself and her fellow seniors.
“My class has gone through each year of high school with new administration in our school. We have had three different principals in our four years, along with many other changes. I can recall many conversations between my peers complaining about this,” she said. “I could not be more thankful to have Mr. Elmore as our principal this year, and I know many other students would agree. Even though no one expected this pandemic to occur whatsoever, the senior class has been extremely fortunate to have the administration we do right now. Living in a small community, Danville High School has a family feeling. This has helped us significantly. The administration and staff have kept every students’ feelings in their hearts and minds. They have kept all of us in the loop on the brainstorming process of plans being made.”
Sallee added that having input with polls sent out by school administration has been a plus, and she said it’s been good for the seniors to be able to give their opinions.
“They have worked extremely hard to give us the celebrations we have expected and deserve. All of the seniors are excited for what we have planned. While Dec. 19 is far out for a traditional graduation and prom, it is definitely a more realistic date with the way we are living right now. I think it would be harder to set a date for June and then it gets canceled and pushed back, and then again in July and August and so fourth. We have appreciated everything Danville High School is doing for us right now. What we are missing out on is truly heartbreaking for us, but the efforts that have been extended from our community are so touching and we feel very supported,” she said.
Elmore said additional online meetings will be held for seniors, including one on May 19 to make sure each student is fully aware of how the drive-thru graduation will work. He said there will be two time options for the meetings conducted on GoogleMeet, with one being at 12:30 p.m., and the other at 5 p.m. that day.
For more information, look to the Danville High School Facebook page.