It was a sight Carlos Kassam-Clay hadn’t seen in awhile as the interim principal at South Pasadena Middle School took in Monday’s 8th grade drive-thru promotion.
Just seeing students for the first time in 10 weeks after the campus was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March was “super exciting,” said Kassam-Clay, stepping into the role following the departure of Dave Kubela in April.
SPMS students took in two special ceremonies – the afternoon drive-thru promotion in the school’s parking lot day, followed by a virtual ceremony in the evening hours on YouTube.
“We’re excited to celebrate their accomplishments,” Kassam-Clay said during the drive-thru portion before students watched a video, capturing highlights of the 2019-2020 school year. Featured were student speeches, musical performances, awards and a tribute to the roughly 385 members of the class. A majority of the now 9th graders are headed to South Pasadena High to further their education.
“We maximized the digital format to do the promotion essentially,” explained Kassam-Clay, noting that the same outline of a typical outdoor promotion ceremony was followed, “but we did it digitally.”
Faculty members – socially distanced, of course – joined Kassam-Clay applauding the efforts of 8th graders, waving to the well wishers from cars, many packed with family members and friends enjoying ovations from those clapping and waving. Students received a promotion certificate and class photo, along with awards earned as vehicles slowly rolled past the fanfare.
Coronavirus concerns have forced school districts across America, including South Pasadena, to come up with creative ways to honor students this year. “Congratulations to the Class of 2020,” said Kassam-Clay. “You will be missed. This is a difficult time, but we know you’re prepared for the challenges ahead.”
Looking on, taking in the drive-through ceremony, was South Pasadena Board of Education member Ruby Kalra. “I’m just proud and happy that we’re able to get out here and do something to celebrate the well-deserving 8th graders who are promoting to the high school,” she said through a facemask, doing her part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “Masks don’t make it easy to breathe but they are what they are.”
South Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Geoff Yantz said he was proud of “our staff, faculty and, most importantly, our students for everything they’ve done the last couple of months, and I’m pleased the county health department changed their directive to school districts to allow us to recognize the students for all their hard work. It’s very important that we show our support. It’s great to be here.”
South Pasadenan News Reporter Eric Fabbro contributed to this story