Not a drag: Coronavirus sends 7 Florida schools to Gainesville Raceway for graduation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — On the quarter-mile strip where Don Garlits, John Force and Kenny Bernstein once ruled, seven Florida high schools will speed through graduation ceremonies in early June.

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Gainesville Raceway, the home of NHRA’s Gatornationals, will be the site of graduation ceremonies during a three-day period beginning June 8. Alachua County Public Schools announced in a news release.

It is not the first racing site to schedule commencements because of the coronavirus pandemic. Two high schools in nearby Flagler County will hand out diplomas at Daytona International Speedway on May 31.

Gainesville Raceway is not charging the school district for the ceremony, WCJB reported.

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The ceremony in Alachua County will feature students and their families driving onto the drag racing strip and up to a decorated stage, the television station reported. That will ensure social distancing.

As graduates’ names are called over the public address system, they will climb out of their vehicles and walk across a stage to receive their diplomas, The Gainesville Sun reported. Graduates will be photographed and then will exit the stage, leaving the raceway by driving down one of the drag racing strips, the newspaper reported.

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“We’re happy we can help the Class of 2020 have a graduation ceremony,” Gainesville Raceway track manager Mike Yurick told WCJB. “We hope it will be a memorable experience for them.”

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“When COVID-19 closed schools, I made it a priority to have some sort of in-person graduation ceremony for our seniors,” Alachua County Superintendent Karen Clarke told the television station. “This ‘hybrid’ approach gives graduates the opportunity to walk across the stage in their caps and gowns while still keeping everyone as safe as possible.”

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