Lots of people were upset when it was announced there would be no traditional in-person graduations during May for Madison County's four high schools -- Madison Southern, Madison Central, Berea Community and Model Laboratory.

Under the current social-distancing requirements brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, there was just no safe way to hold big events like a commencement ceremony.

The right decision was made.

It may not have been popular, but, it was the proper thing to do.

Officials at all these schools, though, were determined to do something memorable -- and safe -- for the members of the Class of 2020.

The result has been something very, very special.

Central, Southern and Model held drive-thru ceremonies this past week and Berea Community is planning something similar for next Friday.

These non-traditional events have been a much-needed expression of joy in a very uncertain time.

On Wednesday, hundreds and hundreds of cars filed through the parking lots at Madison Southern and Madison Central.

The students at Southern were greeted with confetti, sneak attacks of silly string and specially designed Ale-8-one bottles.

We overheard one teacher say, "I think this is more fun than a normal graduation ceremony."

There was lots of fun at Central too.

Students and their families waited in line for hours to drive through a parade route that worked its way through the campus. The graduates, many dressed in caps and gowns, hung out the top of sun roofs and windows, waving to the teachers who had showed up to say goodbye.

At the conclusion of both parades, students were handed their diplomas through their car windows.

At Central, almost 400 members of the Class of 2020 took part in the celebration.

The success of the event brought a huge smile to the face of Madison Central Principal Brandon Fritz.

"We may have to do this again next year," he said with a laugh.

Model took a different approach.

The school was able to organize an event that was as close to a traditional commencement ceremony as possible under the circumstances.

Students and their families were allowed to drive into the parking lot of EKU's McBrayer Arena, where a stage had been set up.

The cars drove up at the appropriate time and seniors were allowed to leave their vehicles, walk up a set of stairs and claim their diplomas -- as their friends and family watched and cheered.

It was creative, innovative and fun.

There were once again lots of smile and laughs.

These events certainly can't replace the traditional ceremonies that we've all become accustomed to.

And it's not likely that they will.

Officials from Madison County Public Schools are still planning on putting together in-person commencement ceremonies for both Southern and Central later this summer.

Tentative dates have already been set.

Who knows what will happen between now and then.

For now, though, these safe social-distancing events were a heart-warming way to honor a group of seniors who have had to deal with an unexpected end to their high school careers.

Congrats, grads!

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