When a student begins their education journey, the finish line comes at graduation when they are able to walk across the stage of the Ocean Center and receive their high school diploma. For the Flagler-Palm Coast and Matanzas High School students in Flagler County, that is not possible at this time due to the restrictions in place as the entire world fights the spread of COVID-19.
However, these graduates will see the finish line when they are handed their diplomas as they ride across the iconic black-and-white checkered start/finish line inside Daytona International Speedway on May 31st.
Thanks to the generosity of the France family, Daytona International Speedway, and NASCAR, the “World Center of Racing” will play host to both Flagler County high schools. Matanzas High School’s ceremony begins at 11:00 a.m. while Flagler-Palm Coast High School’s ceremony starts at 4:00 p.m.
Superintendent James Tager says, “We had a committee made up of students, school administrators, district staff, and a member of the School Board. All of the members on this committee were determined to find a way for our graduates to have their ceremony as close to the original May 28th date as possible. Without the wonderful team at Daytona International Speedway, we probably would not have been able to do that.”
Chip Wile, President of Daytona International Speedway adds, “The France family has been committed to supporting our local schools in any way they can. We are unique in that we can comfortably accommodate these schools and provide an unforgettable experience for these graduates. We are honored to host these graduates and their families for this special occasion.”
The ad-hoc Graduation Committee met several times throughout the month of April and discussed a number of scenarios and solutions. The students on the committee were determined to keep graduation in late May so the majority of their classmates have the opportunity to attend before they head off to college, begin a career, or military service. They wanted to avoid setting a date later in the summer with the possibility of moving it again should the state not be ready to ease the social distancing rules now in place. They also stated they were “virtualed” out, so any type of virtual graduation ceremony was off the table. This class has gone through school closures caused by three hurricanes and a global pandemic so they all envisioned a “historic ceremony” to close out their high school careers. When presented with the offer from Daytona International Speedway, the soon-to-be graduates were excited at the prospect of taking a “victory lap” as they end this chapter of their lives.
Hunter Perez is the Student School Board Member from Matanzas High School and is on the Graduation Committee. On this decision, he says, “Graduating at Daytona International Speedway is beyond anything I ever could have imagined when we started talking about alternate graduations! No one else in the nation has never done anything like this! I am very excited and thankful to Flagler Schools for putting students first and to Daytona International Speedway for making the facility available to us.”
Flagler-Palm Coast High School’s Student Board Member Shelcey Garcia adds, “Life has challenges; the best way to persevere is to show how you work through it, despite it being new and different. It’s important to remember that there’s always positivity in tough times. The FPC Class of 2020 will be remembered as those who persevered and created hope out of a time where we felt hopeless. For our class to be able to go out on such a high note at such an amazing venue is so exciting.”
Representatives from the two high schools as well as the District are now meeting with track officials to go over the logistics of the ceremonies. There are a few details which need to be ironed out but what we know now is: each ceremony will be simulcast via radio inside the facility and live-streamed on the FlaglerSchools.com website and there is only one vehicle permitted for each graduate and their family. Additionally, all in attendance must remain in their vehicles.
While this type of ceremony allows these students to come together one last time, we still must adhere to the CDC guidelines. Additional details and procedures will be released to our seniors and their families in the coming weeks.