As proud family members watched from the side of the road, Potlatch High School seniors paraded down Highway 6 on Saturday in trucks, sports cars, classic muscle cars and ATVs.

What this graduation celebration lacked in tradition, it made up for in style.

And those in attendance preferred this to the traditional way of doing things.

“It’s better than getting crammed in a stuffy, hot gym,” said Matt Mitchell, who watched the parade with his family in their car.

Potlatch High School, like many schools around the region, had to alter its graduation ceremony to account for the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and state directives.

On Saturday, graduating seniors hopped in a car driven by a family member or friends and rolled down the highway to the football field, where they received their diplomas in a spacious, outdoor ceremony.

Chuck Leef was there with his daughter, Jolene Gropp, to see his graduating granddaughter, Jewel Jones.

“I think it’s going to be a tradition,” Leef said before adding that he liked it better than the old style of indoor graduation ceremonies.

Linda Abler, who parked on the side of the highway with her own banner congratulating the 44 students, echoed the same sentiment.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “I think they’ll do it every year.”

Some students rode in the vehicles, while others leaned out the windows or sat on top of the cars. One student lounged in a recliner strapped to the back of a flatbed truck. The Latah County Sheriff’s Office and Potlatch Rural Fire District led the escort as bystanders honked their car horns in celebration.

Rules were put in place to aid social distancing. At the commencement ceremony, there was reserved seating for seven family members or friends for each graduate. Tables with sanitizing lotion were available. Masks were optional, but not required. The commencement ceremony was streamed live on YouTube.

“We know that this is a first,” Superintendent Jeff Cirka said in his opening remarks. “I don’t know if we have to say it’s the last, but we want to make this a tradition that they will remember.”

Valedictorian Kyndal Cessnun and salutatorian Savanna Pagel thanked the community for its support of the high school class and discussed how the last few months away from the classroom has made them grateful for the time spent together the past 13 years..

“Sometimes it felt like we were together way too much, but the last few months has truly shown us how special this time has been,” Cessnun said.

Pagel addressed her peers.

“Graduating students, those sitting to your left or right may never be this close again, even though they are six feet away,” Pagel said. “So let’s take this one last day and celebrate all of the accomplishments that have been made. Although this may be sad, we must remember how bright our futures will be.”

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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