CARLSBAD — Hundreds of high school seniors donned their caps and gowns as teachers and staff at Carlsbad and Sage Creek high schools gave them a drive-through send-off.
The schools, along with the Carlsbad Unified School District, arranged for students and parents to drive through the parking lots while music blasted, teachers danced and waved signs to the graduates on the last day of school.
The events were organized due to uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, although the district has scheduled modified in-person graduation ceremonies at each school on July 23.
“My parents decorated our car and I sat outside the window,” said Sage Creek senior Emma Delker, who will attend Grand Canyon University in Phoenix in the fall. “It was emotional because I got to see people from school I hadn’t seen … and the teachers. It was really kind of heartwarming.”
The students, meanwhile, took center stage by sitting on hoods, car doors, or in the backs of trucks dressed in their caps and gowns.
Tears, smiles, laughs and costumes spanned each of the respective student bodies. Drop-tops, convertibles, vintage cars and vans, beach cruisers and even Elvis appeared as part of the celebrations.
Students also sported some gear of their future homes, waving flags and banners of the colleges and universities in the United States and abroad.
Still, Carlsbad High senior Emma Lupica said she is hopeful for a graduation ceremony next month, but this alternative experience exceeded her expectations.
“It was so nice to see everyone I hadn’t seen in months and the perfect little way to get the class together,” the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo-bound Lupica said. “It was really nice to see all the teachers.”
Schools closed down on March 13 and several weeks later, CUSD rolled out its distance learning program. Delker, though, said it was tough to realize March 13 was the last day of school since the thought then was that students would be able to return to campus.
Lupica said it has been difficult not to see her classmates and teachers for the past three months. Prom and senior class trips were canceled, along with spring sports and other extracurricular activities.
“It was kind of rough because none of us knew it was our last day,” Delker said. “It was a kind of weird vibe at school.”
As for the fall, both Delker and Lupica plan on enrolling at their respective campuses. Delker said GCU will offer classes in person and online, although those plans may change as Arizona has seen a new surge of COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks.
For Lupica, she will move into her dorm room, but classes will be offered online. She said there may be in-person classes once per week, but Cal Poly SLO is allowing students to do online classes only.
“Cal Poly is doing a hybrid,” Lupica said. “I still get to go to campus, but my classes will be online.”