PORTSMOUTH — Drive-through graduation ceremonies, a product of the coronavirus pandemic era, will be sticking around at Portsmouth Middle School.
Eighth-grade students and their loved ones will drive or ride by the middle school in decorated cars and bicycles this week for the third straight year, a trend that was introduced in 2020 amid new public health guidelines.
Portsmouth Middle School Principal Phillip Davis said the school’s Parent-Teacher Association members preferred the reimagined festivities in 2022 over the typical eighth-grade ceremony held inside Portsmouth High School. The drive-through theme, Davis added, has gained enough support that it appears the ritual will continue in the future.
“This is a celebration of fun for the students and that’s what it should be,” Davis said.
Same as the past two years, graduating eighth-grade students and their loved ones are invited to decorate their vehicles and roll by the school. Teachers and school staff line the sidewalks as students go by to retrieve their graduation certificates. Students are invited to then go up to the middle school steps with their certificate and pose for a photograph with a set of teachers and staff in the background.
According to Davis, the drive-by twist on eighth-grade graduation has produced some memorable moments the last two years, including when one participating vehicle drove by with a hot tub. This year, one student has proposed the idea of traveling through the ceremony on horseback.
Last year, as music blared and bubbles floated through the air, Davis ran back into the school to grab hand drums to distribute to graduation onlookers.
“I have a feeling that every year that we continue this it will become more and more creative,” he said.
In the past, students would be recognized one-by-one inside the Portsmouth High School gymnasium with their families in the crowd. When the coronavirus hit, the plans were scrapped and the school eventually decided to host its first drive-through ceremony, a common substitute used in school districts around the country.
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Davis sent school families a notice on Friday, May 27 about the decision to host another drive-through graduation event this year rather than the standard indoor ceremony.
Davis wrote, “Gone are the days of stuffy award ceremonies.”
He added, “While this event was something we were not sure we could pull off in 2020, it really is a great event for all. Families can choose to drive through quickly and head out to celebrate at a restaurant or home, or they can choose to hang out with others to view the spectacle of friends and family cheering others on.”
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This year’s Portsmouth Middle School graduating eighth-grade class has nearly 175 students, Davis said.
The school’s drive-through ceremony will be held on Thursday, June 16 from 5 to 7 p.m.
The final day of school for Portsmouth public school students will be Friday, June 17.