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Graduations will largely take place in cars

TUPPER LAKE — With state guidance on graduation ceremonies announced Thursday, local high schools are preparing for mostly drive-in and drive-through commencements.

The state has deemed these styles safe alternatives to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

Tupper Lake Central School District Superintendent Seth McGowan announced his district’s plans Thursday for a drive-in-style graduation.

“While it is not everything we hoped for, it remains both meaningful and in compliance with the guidance issued on holding graduation ceremonies,” McGowan wrote. “Most of the program for the ceremony will remain as always. This includes the Valedictory and Salutatory addresses live from the stage. While not everything will be possible, our goal is to replicate as traditional a graduation as possible.”

Keene Central School Superintendent Dan Mayberry said his district will also put on a drive-through-type event, although it is not yet ready to announce details.

The Tupper Lake ceremony will be held Thursday, June 25, at 6:30 p.m. in the parking lot of L.P. Quinn Elementary School. That’s one day earlier than originally planned, to allow Good Guy Productions to be there, broadcasting close-up views from the stage on its large event screens.

The Bloomingdale-based company will also broadcast audio from the stage to a reserved radio frequency for those in attendance, and livestream the entire event on video.

Good Guy Productions is involved in all three Tri-Lakes high school graduations and is also putting on drive-in movie events during the pandemic, using the same equipment.

Each Tupper Lake graduate can bring up to two cars with whomever they wish to attend. Each graduate will come forward from a car with up to four family members. While the graduate walks across the stage to receive a diploma, those family members can take pictures. When finished, they will all return to their vehicles while the next graduate comes to the stage.

“While everyone wishes the circumstances of today did not interfere with your graduation, we have made every effort to include the two priorities you expressed to us: being together and walking across the stage to receive your diploma,” McGowan wrote. “We hope you will be gratified to know that so many people have pulled together to make this event special for you. It is an indication of the pride we have in you, and wish to celebrate your success.”

State Assemblymen Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh, and Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, have been requesting that the state give guidance for graduations, and Jones issued a statement Thursday saying he is glad to have the announcement come out.

“Graduation is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that our graduating seniors have been robbed of, due to the public health crisis,” Jones said. “I share in their disappointment, and my heart goes out to them, and their families, who will never get the opportunity to participate in traditional commencement activities. I am hopeful that we can continue to find ways as a community to celebrate their accomplishments and create unique ceremonial occasions. I know that this will create memories that they will last a lifetime.”

The Lake Placid Central School District was already planning a drive-through-style event on the Olympic Speedskating Oval in front of the middle-high school.

Saranac Lake High School has been having students and their families come into the school gymnasium at scheduled intervals to individually film their diploma hand-offs and speeches, to be shown at a later event.

Forty-eight of the 80-plus seniors have been filmed so far, according to Superintendent Diane Fox, who added that this method meets county guidelines. She said the screening ceremony details are to be announced today.

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