Taft HS hopes to have drive-up graduation ceremony
by BRIAN NADIG
Taft High School is making tentative plans for a drive-up graduation ceremony during the second weekend of June.
“It’ll be take a diploma cover, smile (for a picture), get back into the car and drive away,” Taft principal Mark Grishaber said. He estimated that the process would take between 30 to 60 seconds per graduate.
The Chicago Public Schools recently gave the greenlight for schools to hold drive-up graduations in which the graduate can get out of the car while immediate family members remain in their vehicle. Home-visit ceremonies also are allowed, but that would be challenging for Taft given that it has about 730 graduates.
Grishaber said that plans for a drive-up ceremony have not been finalized and that the school will work with the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District on creating a traffic pattern for the ceremony. He added that social distancing guidelines would be followed at all times during the event.
Under one proposed plan, vehicles would line up facing northwest on Avondale Avenue along Norwood Park, 5801 N. Natoma Ave.
The vehicles would turn left onto Natoma Avenue and proceed south toward the school’s driver’s education lot, where the graduate and Grishaber would have their picture taken. Grishaber said that he and the graduate would remain six to eight feet apart at all times and that the graduate would take the diploma cover from a stack on a table — instead of being handed it.
After the photograph is taken, each vehicle would be directed away from the school in order to discourage groups from congregating, Grishaber said.
The ceremony would be divided up into several sessions over the weekend of June 13-14 in order to help avoid traffic jams, Grishaber said
In addition, teachers may be allowed to sit on lawn chairs in the park so that they could wave to students while they drive by, Grishaber said. Students would be prohibited from getting out of their vehicles to talk to the teachers, he said.
The traditional commencement speeches would be posted online, and the diplomas themselves will be mailed to graduates over the summer, Grishaber said.
The school hopes to have a final decision on the type of ceremony it will hold by around June 1, Grishaber said. He added that a “virtual ceremony” would be too impersonal and that he hopes some sort of in-person event can happen.