MOUNT DORA, Fla. - Members of Mount Dora High School’s Class of 2020 will receive their diplomas at Renninger’s Flea Market.
“I’m just glad that our school is actually having like a traditional-style graduation,” Mount Dora High grad Faith Rowe said. It may not be like in an auditorium, but at least it’s something.”
Like many other districts across Central Florida, Lake County Public Schools had to think outside the box.
“Renninger’s Market is one of our strong community partners,” Lake County Schools Spokeswoman Sherri Owens said. “They offered.”
All district graduations will follow a “drive-thru" model. Some are being held at the high schools. Mount Dora High doesn’t have enough space for all of the cars.
“Imagine sort of a drive-in theatre style,” Owens said.
The district will have screens so parents can view their children walking across the stage from their cars.
“It is a very wide open space, so it’s not so much that a flea market will be in the background,” Owens said. “It’s that they have a wide, open space. We’ll have our stage there and it’s a place where we can get many cars to come in so that those parents will not be turned away.”
Some parents say the setup is not ideal.
“It might be hot outside,” parent Bobby Rowe said. “It’s not going to be comfortable for me and my wife. But, again, it’s not about us. As long as she’s happy, I’m happy. Again, this is what they have to offer. So, at this point, we have to take whatever they have to offer.”
Some of the schools do have restrictions on how many people can attend the graduation ceremony. Each school will be in contact with their graduates to let them know what those guidelines will be.
Lake County Schools also received some backlash over its choice to do drive-thru ceremonies. One parent sent a letter to the school board and has started a petition. She said school leaders should wait until it’s safe to have a traditional sit-down graduation while following social distancing guidelines. The petition, which started Monday, already has hundreds of signatures. The woman behind it, Brenda Mattiucci, has a son graduating from Leesburg High School.
"Listen to your graduates,” Mattiucci said. “Listen to the Class of 2020. They're begging you to revisit the idea for your graduation. This is not what they worked for. This is not what they want."
The district said the graduation dates are set when they are so students have enough time to prepare for post-high school plans.