Aerial view of the Champlain Valley Fair

An aerial view of the Champlain Valley Fair shows how much room there is for ‘drive-in’ graduations for Champlain Valley Union, South Burlington and Essex high schools.

Champlain Valley Union High School is collaborating with its Essex and South Burlington cohorts to put together a socially distant – and no doubt memorable – graduation.

The schools are planning a drive-in graduation at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction.

CVU principal Adam Bunting said plans will be finalized early this week.

The graduation is also a collaboration with Higher Ground and Atomic Sound. Higher Ground is working on sound and Atomic Sound screens to show grads’ pictures as their names are called. There’s hope to broadcast over the FM band so graduates and audience will be able to hear it on their car radios.

Bunting said the school is working to have a live broadcast “and stream it out, so extended family who can’t be there can watch it all over the country.”

The graduates won’t walk across the stage, but they will watch from their vehicles.

“There are 336 graduates right now,” Bunting said. Just like every year, the number of graduates can go up – or down – as individuals fulfil or miss graduation requirements.

The Expo spot where the graduations will take place has room for more than 400 cars to spread out with 6-foot social distancing.

“I can’t say enough about Robert Reardon, the principal at Essex High and Patrick Burke, the principal at South Burlington,” said Bunting. “Since being hit with COVID, we’ve been meeting weekly to figure out how do we deal with it and cooperate. The good news is we’re all equally stressed.”

He said the plan is for CVU and South Burlington High to hold their graduations on Friday, June 12. They are working on the timing. Essex High will hold its graduation on Saturday.

A stage is being constructed where CVU graduation for speakers Bunting, Superintendent Elaine Pinckney and CVSD Board Chair Lynn Jaunich and members of the graduating class.

The commencement speech will be given by Rahn Fleming, CVU Red Hawks head football coach and learning center tutor.

Although the graduation won’t be the traditional ceremony, the adapted ceremony will perform the three most important things seniors said they wanted in a poll.

“The wanted it to be with their friends, to be seen by their families and a communal event,” Bunting said.

The graduation will include a couple of musical performances, including the bagpipers that have performed at CVU graduations for the past handful of years, Bunting said.

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