Ontario 2018 graduation.JPG

This was the scene at Ontario's 2018 graduation. This year the school will take a different approach with a Drive-In graduation ceremony.

ONTARIO — Ontario High School Principal Chris Smith and the district's administration are turning back the clock to celebrate the Class of 2020.

Ontario will conduct what school officials are calling a ‘Drive-In’ graduation in the high school parking lot beginning at 7 p.m. May 29.

“It’s like an old drive-in movie, but instead of a screen we’ll have a stage set up and we’ll try to do most of the things we would do in a traditional graduation setting,” Smith said. “Graduating seniors and members of their immediate families will be in their cars in the parking lot and we’ll call so many students at a time to the stage to receive their diplomas.

“We’ll limit exposure on the stage as well. We’re not shaking hands and we won’t have all the board members there to greet them like we would normally, but the kids will have their moment to be recognized in front of their families.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools all across Ohio to get creative in planning for graduations. Social distancing mandates prohibit mass gatherings, forcing districts to abandon their traditional ceremonies.

“Like everyone else, we’re trying to make the best of a difficult situation,” Smith said. “We’ll still do a lot of the things people are used to. I’ll say a few words, (superintendent) Lisa Carmichael will say a few words. We’ll still honor some of the special awards and will have the class president give a speech.

“It’s going to be a little different, but hopefully it will still be meaningful for parents and graduates.”

The event will be live streamed by Mansfield television station WMFD. The OH Report will offer downloadable videos of the event which Ontario High School will provide free of charge to graduating seniors.

Final details for the ceremony will be available when students will pick up their caps and gowns on May 22.

“We understand these graduating seniors are missing out on a lot of traditional things during the last month-and-a-half of school and our hearts break for them,” Smith said. “All those things are meaningful and unfortunately we can’t go forward with them.

“We’re trying to do as much as we can with this ceremony to make it special for those kids and their families.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.