Editorial: A salute to our high school graduates

The stretch run.

That's the final two months of students' often 13-year journey through elementary, middle and high schools as they prepare to graduate and take their next step into the real world, whichever version one chooses, be it college, trade school, the military or work.

While the most heralded celebration of those final months of schooling is high school graduation, when students dressed in cap and gown receive their diploma as friends, family and teachers proudly look on, there are plenty of other milestones.

Spring break trips. Prom. The senior party. Senior field days. Awards night. End of school performances by the drama department, the chorus classes, the band. And the list goes on and on.

But the class of 2020 wasn't able to experience many of these high school rites of passage, as the dangers of the fast-spreading new coronavirus (COVID-19) wiped out these plans. In mid-March, Gov. Brian Kemp ordered public schools shuttered to contain the spread of the insidious disease — and shuttered they remained for the rest of the academic year.

Many schools across the country turned to online learning, where classes were held via video-conferencing instead of in-person inside schools. School work was done through learning platforms, and papers were turned in by email. Going to school as we've come to know it for years was turned upside-down. Students missed time with their friends, teachers and school staff.

School districts honored their graduating seniors in creative ways. Many held online graduations, while others — such as Dalton High School — postponed their commencement ceremony. In case that ceremony scheduled for July 25 must be canceled, and for the students who may not be able to attend, Dalton High is holding a drive-thru graduation ceremony at Harmon Field this week so seniors can observe the end of their high school careers while maintaining social distancing.

More than 450 Catamount graduates are invited to the field, one at a time over several days, in one car with their families. The graduate exits the vehicle, walks across the stage and receives his or her diploma in front of their families, as their names are read and photographs taken. The graduates will then return to the vehicle and leave Harmon Field. Not your typical graduation, but under the circumstances it's a fine alternative.

Our graduating seniors have faced a challenging end to their high school careers. While they have been robbed of these milestone events, most have kept a positive attitude through it all. They have exhibited great understanding and maturity in dealing with one difficult situation after another.

So as our graduating seniors put a bow on their primary and secondary school careers, we congratulate them on all of their accomplishments. That real world they are entering is filled with unknowns that may make them feel uneasy or take pause, but we are confident they have the tools to excel.

Again, congratulations. Best of luck in your future pursuits!

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