Photo by Joe Boyle
Members of the Class of 2020 at Richards High School drove through the parking lot on May 15 to say goodbye to the faculty, parents and friends.
By Joe Boyle
The Class of 2020 of Richards High School decided to make the best of an unprecedented situation as they said goodbye to parents, relatives, administrators and the faculty.
It was supposed to be prom night on May 15 but the presence of COVID-19 canceled those plans.
However, Deborah Swanson, math teacher and activities facilitator at Richards, 10601 S. Central Ave., Oak Lawn, decided to meet with the seniors and ask them for their ideas.
"I asked them what they wanted to do and they said right away they would like a drive-through in the parking lot," Swanson recalled. "I said we can definitely do that."
And members of the Class of 2020 drove through the north parking lot and were greeted by a large crowd that had pulled up just before and were waiting for their arrival. Many parents and relatives decorated their vehicles as they greeted the students who drove through the parking lot slowly to enjoy every last minute.
Many of the students drove through alone or were accompanied by other family members. Horns were beeping as the procession of vehicles continued through the lot. Many in the crowd called out to students and held up signs saying they loved them and good luck in the future.
Many of the students likewise had signs written saying that they missed the faculty and loved them as well.
"It kind of evolved," Swanson said of the plans for the parking lot parade. "Since this would have been prom night and after meeting with the kids, I thought this was a great idea. We started making plans right away and it came off very well. The weather was perfect, too."
Mike Jacobson, the principal at Richards, was on board with the plans. Many of the faculty and students have not seen each other since mid-March due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We wanted to do something for the faculty to be able to celebrate the senior class," Jacobson said. "We thought this was a nice way to remind the kids that they are always Bulldogs."
"I thought it was a terrific idea," Swanson said. "Our staff has been eager to participate as we all miss seeing our students."
The event took place from 5 to 6 p.m. Students consistently drove through the lot for the event. Some of them drove up at the beginning while other students drove through later. Faculty, parents and friends were happy to see them. After the parade, some of the students stopped near the parking lot exit and got out of their vehicles. They began talking to each from a safe distance. Many of the students were getting reacquainted since they have been mostly at home during the stay-at-home orders.
Prom night was supposed to be a celebration at the Museum of Science and Industry. But those plans had to be canceled due to the pandemic. A virtual trivia night was being planned along with the drive-by parade.
"I think everything went off very well," said Bob McPartland, public information specialist for Community High School District 218, which includes Richards. "This has been very rough. We know that kids missed coming. They miss seeing the other students and seeing the teachers. This has been really surreal. It was good to see them. It was a chance to tell them we love them."