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Leon High School Hosts Drive-In Graduation

Leon County seniors are celebrating the end of their high school careers with graduation ceremonies at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. However, this year those celebrations look a little different. Due to concerns about the coronavirus, families will fill the parking lot and stay in their cars. It's an effort to distance people per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

This morning Leon High School held its graduation ceremony. As cars pulled in, graduates rolled down their windows to receive diploma covers from school staff. Some had decorated their vehicles with banners and balloons. Once parked, no one was allowed to walk between the cars or get out. Instead, families tuned into a radio station to hear the ceremony while watching it on a jumbotron.

Leon High School Principal Billy Epting says while he's glad to hold the ceremony, he'll miss the social interaction he usually has with students.

Leon High School Principal Billy Epting stands straight in a button-down shirt and tie. He smiles at the camera. Behind him is a white tent where the graduation ceremony will be recorded.
Robbie Gaffney
Leon High School Principal Billy Epting says in the beginning some parents and students were concerned and holding out hope that there would still be a traditional graduation ceremony. However, now, Epting says he thinks they are buying into this type of ceremony.

"I really enjoy interacting with the kids and shaking the hand and putting an arm around their shoulders and having a close face to face congratulations. That part I will miss in this ceremony. But considering the circumstances, I think what we've got going on tonight is a good alternative," Epting says.

He explains that Leon High School has not had drive-in graduations before—and it's most likely the unique event will long be remembered.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna says his staff had to work throughout the Memorial Day weekend to prepare for the ceremonies.

"We have Denver Lee—the man that's put all the technology together. We've rented digital boards. These high tech digital boards from a company out of Tampa. They came with two technicians that we're putting up in a hotel across the street that are running the digital boards. We have a local radio station that's volunteering their time to do live remotes for all six ceremonies," Hanna says.

The end of each ceremony is marked with fireworks.