It might not have been the usual graduation with all the pomp and circumstance, but there were still plenty of tears from parents, young men in suits and ties and young girls in dresses and curls.
Due to all the restrictions with COVID-19, the staff at Destin Elementary School adapted and still sent the graduating fourth graders out in style Friday morning.
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In a drive-through setting, fourth graders and their parents filed through in their cars while Destin Elementary faculty lined the walkway at the bus ramp waving and wishing them well. Some gave out hugs and others shouted out “good to see you” or “we’ve missed you.”
After making it through the gauntlet of teachers, the cars arrived at the “bridge” that was decorated to commemorate their graduation. Each year, the graduating students from Destin Elementary pass over the bridge, marking their move from elementary school to middle school. Principals from both schools are there for the occasion and Friday was no different, just maybe a little warmer.
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“It was a little of warm for those of us who were standing outside, but I’m glad everybody got a chance to get a new-normal graduation for the time being,” said Destin Elementary Principal Joe Jannazo.
Out of 190 fourth graders about 150 showed up to receive their diplomas and take that walk across the bridge.
“We had a very high percentage of the students show up,” Jannazo said. “We’re very pleased with the turnout and very excited to celebrate the fourth grade graduates that are now Destin Middle School students.”
Some of the students were already sporting the Destin Middle School Marlin teal.
“It went very well. I think it was nice that the parents were able to sit in an air-conditioned car instead of a hot auditorium (for a couple of hours),” Jannazo said.
However, for the faculty and staff that were outside greeting the students and handing out diplomas from 8 to 10 a.m., it was a balmy 85-plus degrees.
“I really liked it except for the heat ... but we live in Florida,” said fourth grade teacher Cecily Hinton. “I liked it better than us being confined in a building. I liked them driving through and that we could run up to the cars and chit chat with them a minute.”
"We made the best of it. We just miss them so much so it was great to see them and their parents,“ added Diane Kelly, who also teaches fourth grade.
“I thought it was a great experience for them. It was good to see everybody,“ said fourth grade teacher Jessica Brown.
It wasn’t just fourth grader teachers that showed up but kindergarten all the way to the front office staff showed up for the graduation.
“We had just about the whole staff here, which is representative of this staff and how they care about their kids. It was a great day,” Jannazo said.
“I think it was absolutely fabulous,” said third grade teacher Donna Barton, who was voted as teacher of the year earlier this year. “It was so good to see the kids and their smiling faces ... and their parents were crying, just as if it were graduation.”
Barton, who has witnessed more than 30 graduating classes come through Destin Elementary, said this one was special.
“This was something very special for them to remember ... and they got to walk across the bridge,” she said.