Rockford Elementary took a wide approach to planning a drive-thru celebration for the end of this school year interrupted by COVID-19, inviting students from prekindergarten to seniors to a graduation parade on Saturday, May 16.

Rockford’s prekindergarten, kindergarten and fifth grade students were invited to decorate their family cars for the event, along with former Tigers who are finishing eighth grade and members of the Class of 2020.

“Our kids have handled everything with grace and resilience, but they’re missing out on so much, especially our high school seniors,” Principal Chad Tipton said in an interview on May 13.

A Legacy Walk, when Blount County seniors return to their former schools in their caps and gowns, has become a tradition in recent years, along with a prom that was canceled this year and graduation, now scheduled for late July.

Last year Rockford took its fifth graders to Eagleton Middle School for graduation from the elementary school, which Tipton called “a great event” the schools had hoped to repeat in 2020.

When the school buildings and other places remained closed after spring break in March, Rockford’s fifth graders missed a planned trip to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont too.

On Saturday the school resource officer led the parade of vehicles out the gate of the campus to Williams Mill Road and Little River Road, passing Rockford Park.

Tipton read the name of each graduate over a microphone as they passed out of the gate in cars and trucks decorated with balloons and signs while teachers, families and friends cheered.

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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