Upper Arlington High School's class of 2020 will celebrate its graduation amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic with a virtual graduation ceremony and car parade Sunday, May 24.

District officials announced that a prerecorded virtual graduation will debut on the district's YouTube channel -- available through a link on the district's website at uaschools.org -- at 9:30 a.m.

A community car parade involving this year's graduating class of approximately 430 students will take place on Northwest Boulevard from about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For the latter, the district is inviting members of the class of 2020 to ride in vehicles driven by their parents or guardians and be recognized by residents who can watch from their yards or from vehicles parked along the parade route.

"In talking with the kids, this is what they want," Superintendent Paul Imhoff said. "They know it's important that the seniors not be the ones driving the cars because the seniors want to be able to enjoy it.

"So, they're going to have an adult family member driving the car. People who want to be able to watch the parade are being asked to line the parade route in their cars, but to stay in their cars."

The community car parade was requested by graduating seniors, who were surveyed by class leaders and principal Andrew Theado after the pandemic forced the district to cancel plans for a traditional commencement ceremony that had been scheduled for May 24 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.

"We can decorate cars, and we can honk and wave," Imhoff said. "It's just a way to honor our graduates."

Karen Truett, district communications director, said the commencement ceremony would be archived so people could watch it after the parade if they choose.

Imhoff and Theado will lead the virtual graduation ceremony and offer remarks. Senior class officers will read the names of graduates.

"We're going to have a slide that shows the names and pictures of students as their names are read," Truett said.

For those planning to attend the parade, district officials stress the importance of social distancing and remaining in parked vehicles along the parade route.

Upper Arlington police will assist and block off local streets for the parade, which will start at the intersection of Northwest Boulevard and Ridgeview Road.

From there, the parade route will proceed east on Ridgeview Road to Mt. Holyoke Road; north on Mt. Holyoke Road to Trentwood Road (temporary reversal of normal one-way traffic flow); west on Trentwood Road to Northwest Boulevard; and south on Northwest Boulevard, ending at Lane Avenue

According to a city memo mailed to residents and provided to ThisWeek Upper Arlington News by the district, "all sections of the parade route will be closed to through traffic by 9:45 a.m. May 24."

"Parents and other supporters of the students will be allowed to park their cars along the parade route and must be in place by 9:40 a.m.," the city memo states. "Parade watchers will be strongly encouraged to stay in or close to their vehicles (at curbside) and to maintain an appropriate distance from other spectators.

"The class of 2020 has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, missing out on so many of the traditions and celebrations typically afforded our community's graduating seniors.

"This parade is an attempt to provide some special memories for them under these unusual circumstances."

Imhoff said the virtual graduation and parade are ways to honor the seniors, but the district has committed to an in-person ceremony once large gatherings are deemed safe.

"What we promised our seniors is that we are going to have a live, in-person graduation ceremony where we can all be together, shoulder-to-shoulder, as soon as it's safe," he said. "I know all the things our kids are losing right now are heartbreaking.

"I don't want to seem like for a minute that I think everything's fine because we're doing all of these things. It's not. It's just heartbreaking."

Imhoff lauded the class of 2020, parents and staff for their resolve and school spirit.

"I am so proud of our kids and I'm so proud of our staff and our parents that are all working together. We are doing everything within our power and everything that is safe to honor these kids."

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