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OHS Wraps Up Summer With Drive Thru Graduation
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Some close friends and families created a “train” of graduates who all rode in together to celebrate their graduation. Pictured, from left: Max Allen, Hailey Cabral, Samantha Ballard, and Brayden Farris. Autumn Neal/The Leader

It was the moment that many in the community had been waiting for the entire summer: graduation.

As of June, the hope had still been for a traditional high school graduation ceremony, albeit at the end of July. However, new mandates to help stop the spread of coronavirus put a halt to any hope for normality. The district, still wanting to celebrate their graduates, decided to put on a less-than-traditional ceremony.

“It was our goal all along to hold out for the traditional ceremony,” Superintendent Marc Malone reiterated. He also confirmed that all four graduations –junior high, alternative education, charter and high school – proved to be a success and graduates respected social distancing protocols. (Look for information and photos for the other ceremonies in the Aug. 12 issue of The Leader).

Oakdale High School’s drive thru graduation ceremony ran from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday evening, July 31. With many families trying to make their way over to the school grounds in the beginning of the event, this lent to lines of cars coming from all different directions to try and get a spot in line. Some graduates hopped in the backs of trucks with signs and balloons, while others waited in the car with their families.

Staff from the high school and district office took point in different areas to keep lines moving and enforce social distancing and volunteers came to help with Sober Grad night raffle distributions.

Though it was labeled a drive thru ceremony, the high school had the means to make it more of a “walk through” event for graduates and their families.

Many seniors parked their cars in the senior parking lot and all attending eventually made their way into the Corral as a “high schooler” for the final time, albeit in small groups to maintain the required distance. And – for a bit of familiarity – ‘The Voice of the Mustangs’ Pete Simoncini read the names of graduates as they walked across the stage while their family members took photos.

Some seniors took a few more pictures below the scoreboard, displaying 2020, or next to the iconic Mustang statue, and then filtered back out of the Corral to grab their senior packet. Finally, they made their way into the gym, as warm as a summer’s day and still smelling like high school, to get their Sober Grad night raffle prize.

Despite not having a physical event, there were still plenty of prizes and gift cards available to graduating seniors and most walked away with a small gift; though others toted out an occasional kayak or vacuum.

All in all, for anyone arriving in the beginning, the ceremony took about an hour, including wait time. Though seniors had to leave OHS quickly and unexpectedly in mid-March, most were able to say their final good-byes to campus before they begin their next endeavor. Approximately 190 of the high school graduates took advantage of this event.

The virtual graduation was provided on a thumbnail to all high school graduates and is also posted on Youtube at

As of now, Oakdale schools are planning a remote start with distance learning in place on Thursday, Aug. 6 to abide by the guidance of the county’s public health officer. They will continue to evaluate reopening plans as the state allows it. For now, visit your school’s website for further guidance or the district’s website at

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School district personnel made sure to do all they could for school spirit, which included putting up “2020” all over the Corral scoreboard for graduates. Autumn Neal/The Leader
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Oakdale High senior, Chandler Neal, took the stage for a quick minute to pose for an official photo after teacher Pete Simoncini handed him a temporary diploma cover. Autumn Neal/The Leader