The Drive-Thru Graduation Extravaganza

By COVID necessity, school graduations are coming in various forms and degrees of ingenuity this spring. There are the motor speedway variety, the football stadium version, the major league ballpark venue, the drive-in theater event and the Zoom virtual, maybe more.

Last Saturday morning, at Murchison Middle School in Austin ISD, there was the “Drive-Thru Graduation Extravaganza” for daughter Caroline and her eighth-grade classmates. During a two-hour window – with staggered time slots based on where last names fell in the alphabet – family cars, with the graduates’ names displayed in the windshields, drove slowly around the corner, up the line and then around the school’s front circle driveway past the front door, the normal drop-off spot for students every morning during a normal school year.

The last three months of this school year, of course, weren’t normal, but the drive-thru graduation was fun and greatly appreciated by my graduate, who wore a new red blazer for the occasion and rode shotgun, while her mother took video from the back seat.

The front lawn of the school was decorated with rows of colored photos of the graduates, courtesy of the PTA. Teachers and school staff, wearing masks, lined the driveway, holding signs and calling out to the graduates, and the kids returned their greetings. As we slowly drove past the front door, a school counselor with a microphone — and aided by the signs in the windshields — called out each graduate’s name.

The emailed instructions to the parents had been clear: “You may absolutely drive slowly/leisurely to enjoy the good vibes, but there will not be stopping and getting out.” And there wasn’t.

Through the open window, Caroline called out to teachers and administrators she recognized behind their masks and held out a sign reading, “We miss you guys.”

Our part of the drive-thru graduation lasted five minutes at most. We spent a lot longer in a Starbucks’ drive-thru line afterwards. But Caroline got a kick out of it, and so did her parents. We thank Principal Beth Newton, Assistant Principal Anthony Bromberg and all the Murchison teachers, staff and PTA for the thoughtfulness and hard work making it possible.

We returned to the school that afternoon to collect Caroline’s souvenir graduation photo from the lawn. Honor roll and other special recognitions will be emailed later.

No, a promotion from eighth grade is not a graduation from high school or college, but it is an accomplishment and a big deal for eighth graders. And I feel for the high school and college graduates who didn’t get to walk across the traditional stage or enjoy the real proms and real parties normally associated with these landmark accomplishments.

But I congratulate all of them and hope they and their families have stayed safe and well during this health crisis. I also hope everyone will be able to enjoy a more-normal graduation season next year.

Clay Robison


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