Middle School graduation in Menlo Park looks different during a pandemic

by Sofia Bergmann on June 13, 2020

Both Hillview (photo above) and La Entrada Middle Schools held vehicle-based graduation ceremonies in lieu of their traditional celebrations.

At the La Entrada event held at the end of May (pictured below), windows were rolled up and only the graduating students were allowed out of the car (with masks) to drop off and collect their materials. There was a five-minute window for the students to drive through the school’s parking lot, drop off textbooks and supplies, pick up promotion certificates, diplomas and portfolios, and have their photos taken by a professional photographer.

“We wanted a celebratory feeling with these drive-thoughs with balloons and music so our eighth graders can feel as positive as possible during the event,” said Assistant Principal Sonya Dineen.

Hillview Middle School worked hard to emulate the feeling of graduation following COVID_19 guidelines, including  With the  a virtual talent show on Friday May 22.  Principal Willy Haug said that because the yearbook publisher’s cannot ship until August, Hillview has arranged for a digital yearbook where students can upload photos and memories which will be stored in the Cloud for all to enjoy.

Hillview hosted a drive-through ceremony on Friday, June 12 between 1:30 and 5:30 pm. Each of the school’s Academies droeve through in separate time slots, about 200 students at a time, to pick up their diplomas. A number of family dogs enjoyed the car ride with 8th graders in their graduation gowns.

“[The PTO] are helping with all the decor and are great thought-partners and sounding boards as we really swiftly work to adapt to the changing landscape, and making something we can all be apart of that is memorable,” said Principal Haug, before the drive through ceremony. He also noted the help from the Menlo Park City School District in putting on the event.

With regards to the dance, Haug said that they have announced a potential postponement that may serve as more of a reunion in the future, depending on how regulations and sentiments change. Hillview has been conducting mostly asynchronous online learning for their students since March 16 when San Mateo County ordered schools to close. Haug says that it has been challenging for some families, but that the engagement numbers have been pleasantly high.

“Our staff has really rallied to come together, to support each other to participate in the creation of our distance learning, and there is a lot of good-will and feeling amongst us.”  he said. Haug also applauds the students for showing a brave face throughout this time, as he recalls one student’s remarks about distance learning being ‘all the work of school without any of the fun.’

La Entrada photo courtesy of Teagen Webster; Hillview photos by Robb Most (c) 2020

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