School buses visit the homes of 700 students for mini graduation ceremonies

Seven hundred senior students received their high school diplomas from traveling buses that stopped at each of their homes so teachers could award diplomas.

Staff at Bridgewater-Raritan High School in New Jersey recruited eight buses for the mobile graduation, a safer way to celebrate in the coronavirus pandemic. Over a four-day period this week, each vehicle made an estimated 26 stops per day, spending a few minutes with each student at his or her home, minding social distance.

The hope, says assistant principal Michael Godown, was to make personal connections with students who hadn’t been in school since the middle of March, when classes went online. “It was wonderful and the feedback we got, was that it was better than a traditional graduation ceremony,” he tells Yahoo Life.

Beforehand, buses drove around Bridgewater Township to drop off caps and gowns so students could clean or try on the regalia. And this week, masked teachers delivered goodbye kits containing small banners with the name of each student and the slogan “United Together,” plus a school hat, a sticker, a coffee mug, a face mask and a diploma cover.

The buses were trailed by patrol cars from the Raritan and Bridgewater Township police departments and five fire engines driven by volunteer firefighters, all of which blared sirens when arriving. Teachers then stepped off the bus yelling in celebration.

“We had neighbors coming outside crying, even though their children don’t attend our school,” assistant principal Kristia Greenberg tells Yahoo Life.

Some students covered their caps with sparkles and slogans, per the school’s relaxed rule about decorating graduation gear. And families brought out balloons, bubble makers and food, and launched confetti into the air. One street was home to three different families so the bus parked for nearly 30 minutes.

Teens also received graduation tickets as keepsakes, as a larger ceremony is uncertain. However on June 23, the school will host an online graduation event, after which kids are encouraged to “make ridiculous noises and bang on pots and pans.”

In late May, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy said that modified in-person graduation ceremonies will be allowed after July 6. Bridgewater-Raritan High School is planning several options depending on maximum crowd size.