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This year, honoring grads means drive-thru ceremonies and livestreamed speeches

Updated: Apr. 29, 2020 at 5:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - High school seniors are counting down the days to graduation ceremonies. But they’ll be very different this year, missing the hugs and piles of lei.

Pearl City High is hosting a livestream of the commencement ceremony speeches, and then vehicles will line up on campus for graduates to receive their diplomas.

Pearl City senior Tevita Mafi had been looking forward to a more traditional graduation ceremony with classmates before heading off to the University of San Francisco.

But Mafi, who is class president, is trying to remain optimistic.

“I believe, in a positive way, that it’s going to feel special to us because it is our graduation, and we must push forward with what we have."

The state Department of Education is requiring that graduation events at public and charter schools follow federal, state and county guidelines for gatherings and social distancing.

Hand sanitizers and masks must also be available.

During the Pearl City High ceremony, only the graduate will be able to get out of the vehicle when it’s their turn in line. They’ll be allowed to remove their mask when they pose with their diploma for a professional photo.

“We’re asking everyone to wear masks. We will have some on hand as well as some hand sanitizer and some wipes to make sure that everyone is safe,” said Daphne Okunaga, a math teacher who is also the school’s graduation coordinator.

At Mililani High, there will be a virtual ceremony and a drive-thru diploma distribution using a new stage. A professional photographer will capture the memory for the 637 seniors.

“We applied for a bit of a waiver to allow students to get out of their cars and practice social distancing to take a photo,” said Principal Fred Murphy.

A small dress rehearsal will be held at the campus on Thursday.

“I feel like this whole situation has just been crazy, especially with it being very uncertain, but I think a lot of the seniors are now realizing that it’s what is best for the community to keep everybody safe,” said senior class president Taylor-Ann Okimoto.

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