Some of the cars pulling into Turner Tech High School in Miami are decorated with balloons. Some have more than one student inside. All of them are met with music and cheering, dancing teachers and school administrators.
This is the new normal: the drive-thru salute to graduating seniors.
It’s a trend at South Florida high schools, as educators try to do something memorable for seniors who won’t have traditional graduation ceremonies.
"It’s something, at least we get something instead of just having an online graduation," said senior Brithney St. Fleur.
“I just am so appreciative, we could’ve had nothing, so grateful for everyone who played a part in this,” added senior Lourdgilyn Sterling.
They were passing out caps and gowns, and some kids got theirs directly from Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
“So here you have everything you need, good luck,” Carvalho said to student after student.
As they send off the seniors, school administrators and the superintendent are thinking very hard about what next school year will look like for everybody else.
“We’re hoping for a normal start to the school year but we know that a lot of parents are going to want something slightly different so we are building a number of contingency plans that adapt to parents’ choices,” Carvalho said.
Decisions will be guided by a survey being conducted of Miami-Dade parents, and a forthcoming survey of teachers.
It’s going to be a space issue. To implement social distancing rules, classroom capacity is basically cut in half or even less, and the same rule of math applies to school buses.
So one possibility is alternating days for distance learning. Carvalho used an example of a class with 20 students, with ten physically at school.
“The following day, they would switch, the 10 who were physically in the classroom would now be at home, connected via Zoom, and the 10 who were home would now be in school,” Carvalho explained.
Common areas like cafeterias, gyms, and libraries will likely be utilized for classroom space, to spread kids out. Expect mandatory face masks and frequent hand washing, and there is no doubt that home learning will be part of the equation.
“We now have the capacity to educate children, meet them where they are,” Carvalho said. “We continue to be in the ocean of uncertainty, trend lines as far as Covid19 are projected to be in pretty good shape heading into summer but we continue to build contingency plans that we are able to pivot to depending on changing conditions here in Miami-Dade.”
The bottom line is that everything is still in flux. The only guaranteed thing about next school year is that the experience will definitely look different than it did this past school year, with the extent of the changes depending on the progress of the pandemic.