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Hamilton HS graduating seniors line up cars on campus for caps, gowns

Hamilton High School seniors picked up their caps and gowns Thursday, April 30, 2020, at Hamilton High School in Hamilton. The seniors and parents were greeted by signs drove through balloon arches as they picked up their graduation supplies in drive-thru fashion. Schools around the area are still trying to figure out how to make graduation ceremonies special for students while keeping with the social distancing guidelines. Hamilton has not announced its plans yet for graduation. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Hamilton High School seniors picked up their caps and gowns Thursday, April 30, 2020, at Hamilton High School in Hamilton. The seniors and parents were greeted by signs drove through balloon arches as they picked up their graduation supplies in drive-thru fashion. Schools around the area are still trying to figure out how to make graduation ceremonies special for students while keeping with the social distancing guidelines. Hamilton has not announced its plans yet for graduation. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Before the coronavirus shutdown, Hamilton High seniors knew their graduation would involve ceremonial caps and gowns and waiting in line.

They just never imagined it would be like it was Thursday as they waited in a line of cars around their school to pick up their caps and gowns for a graduation commencement ceremony that may never happen.

Hundreds of seniors – many with their families – rolled slowly in cars around the high school as teachers and staffers handed out caps and gowns ordered months before anyone heard of the coronavirus.

John Wilhelm, principal of Hamilton High School, said typically the items are passed out in the cafeteria.

The shape and timing of the high school’s official commencement ceremony for 550 seniors is being determined, he said.

School officials wanted to make this early portion of the graduation process as festive as possible with colorful balloons, a congratulations archway and signs of encouragement and praise for the graduates and their families.

Senior Hannah Moore said she appreciated the school’s efforts, especially during such an emotionally trying time where the shutdown has eliminated once-in-a-lifetime senior year events such as prom, senior day and senior banquets.

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“It’s been a range of emotions,” she said. “I’ve been maniac some days and I go from like crying over what’s this is like to being mad at the governor on TV for suggesting we will have to do this (graduation) virtually. I don’t get to see my friends. I don’t get to say goodbye to my teachers and having to do all this (remote learning) is kind of frustrating at times. We deserved better than this but I’m still proud of all of us for all we’ve gone through.”

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Her mother — Jani Moore – teared up when talking about the impact coronavirus has had on her daughter’s senior celebrations.

“We thought we’d have other memories,” the mother said. “She has worked really hard and it’s tough seeing her go through it.”

Hamilton High School parent Kenneth Whisman and his son Kenneth Whisman Jr. were in their car as part of the line of vehicles around the school.

“High school graduation is a pivotal point in a person’s life,” the father said. “This is the first time I’ve heard of a drive-through ceremony. It’s kind of weird.”