Checkered flag: Tracks to host HS graduations

High school students in one Florida county will literally cross the finish line on their high school years when they receive their diplomas on the finish line at Daytona International Speedway.

Meanwhile, students in a Texas county will fittingly celebrate their graduation in Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway, with family members watching from their cars in the infield as the moment is broadcast on the track’s massive video board.

With schools scrambling to plan graduation ceremonies during the coronavirus pandemic, the two racetracks are using their size as an advantage in these days of social distancing.

Two high schools in Flagler County, Florida, will hold ceremonies at Daytona on May 31, the Flagler County School District said in a news release.

The plan, first conceived of by track president Chip Wile, will see each family and graduate allowed one car, and no one can exit the vehicle. The graduates will receive their diploma after their car crosses the finish line, before circling the track for a victory lap. The graduation will be simulcast over the radio inside the track and also will be livestreamed on the school district’s website.

Hunter Perez, a senior at Matanzas High, said the students he has talked with are grateful for the opportunity to avoid a virtual ceremony that would have had everyone graduating separately.

“This is something we’re gonna remember forever,” Perez told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “This is one for the history books.”

In Texas, students from 23 high schools will have their graduations at Texas Motor Speedway, and Eddie Gossage, the track’s president and general manager, told The Dallas Morning News that more schools might also choose to utilize the facility.

Graduates will sit in chairs on pit row that are spaced to allow for social distancing before walking to Victory Lane to receive their diplomas, according to the Morning News. Family members will be watching via the track’s 12-story, high-definition screen known as Big Hoss, with the ceremony also being livestreamed.

Kayla Rios, student body president at Lewisville High, told the Morning News she is grateful to graduate with her classmates and in front of her family.

“I’m definitely excited because I think this is definitely going to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing to be able to graduate at Texas Motor Speedway,” she said.

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