South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Lindbergh Class of 2020 will get a drive-in graduation at the PowerPlex

Lindbergh High 2020 graduate Karen Guo waves to spectators during a May 26 car parade for graduates, since an in-person graduation has been postponed due to COVID-19.

Lindbergh High School will hold its 2020 graduation Friday, June 26, at the PowerPlex complex at the former St. Louis Mills mall in Hazelwood.

The school will have an outdoor drive-in graduation ceremony, socially distanced because of COVID-19, Principal Eric Cochran announced in an email to students Friday morning.

While our commencement ceremony is always cause for excitement, this year might be the most memorable we have ever had before,” Cochran said. “The venue will have many flourishes that will give our 2020 graduating class the celebration they deserve!”

Lindbergh Schools had to move the graduation from its planned June 27 date at Chaifetz Arena in the city of St. Louis, its usual graduation location, after Chaifetz last week canceled all graduation ceremonies through the end of July. The graduation had been postponed from May 26, its original date, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PowerPlex is under construction to build its youth sports complex and had held an early round of graduation ceremonies for North County and West County schools last month, along with a drive-in series of concerts that has been extended.

The Lindbergh graduation will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, June 26, at the PowerPlex site, 5555 St. Louis Mills Blvd., Hazelwood.

At least eight area high schools, including all the Rockwood School District’s high schools, held their graduation ceremonies the last few weeks at the PowerPlex in what the venue calls a “curbside graduation.” They are the largest drive-in graduation ceremonies ever held and a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” the company has said.

In case of bad weather, Lindbergh has also reserved the night of June 28 as a backup date.

The PowerPlex site has a “clear plan for social distancing, designed to keep students and families safe,” which was important to the district in making the decision, Cochran said.

Dan Buck, manager of Big Sports Properties which is redeveloping the mall site, said that his team is working closely with the St. Louis County Department of Public Health on social-distancing regulations.

“These graduations will prove that ‘safe’ and ‘amazing’ can co-exist,” Buck said in a news release. “These commencements are going to be amazing productions.” 

Since the site is a closed former mall, it has room to space students and spectators safely. Students will be staged before the ceremony in the 27 individual stores of the old mall, which limits them to being around 20 students per “pod.”

The former mall parking lot can fit thousands of people to witness graduation from the safety and comfort of their cars.

Parents can watch the ceremony from outside their cars, or they can watch it from inside their cars if there is a health concern.

Two giant Jumbotron video screens will be flanking the stage so that parents can see the graduates walk across the stage, and the audio feed can be heard on car radios. Owners of the complex promise broadcast-quality cameras, audio, lights and large outdoor screens.

The PowerPlex also allows students to bring more of their families to the ceremony, with two full cars allowed per graduate. Any other location would have only allowed two individual guests per student, Cochran said.

Brought 2U Media will be bringing two large video trucks to add to the production quality. 

“This is how we will beat Covid-19,” Paul Brown of Brought 2U Media said in a news release from the PowerPlex. “Safe, innovative and creative solutions. We don’t have to sacrifice everything that is important to us.”    

District tried for June 27 date

Cochran said that Lindbergh originally agreed with PowerPlex to hold graduation on the same day, Saturday, June 27, that it would have been held at Chaifetz, but the PowerPlex came back and said it had the chance to book a soon-to-be announced “big name in music” the night of June 27 and asked if June 26 would work instead.

The district wanted to keep the date close to the June 27 date so that graduates would be available.

I am sincerely sorry if this date causes a conflict for anyone, but I hope everyone can make arrangements to be there,” Cochran said.

Students will be sent detailed information Monday about how to get tickets and how the event will happen.

If students are not able to participate or do not want to, Cochran said students can arrange to have their diploma mailed to them or, on an individual basis, officials are willing to hand it out in a ceremonial way at Lindbergh High School.

“This is a place that touches lives, brings families together and shows the world what an amazing community St. Louis is,” developer Don Short said in a news release. “We all know that Covid-19 can’t beat this region and this is just another creative victory over the virus.” 

Background behind the drive-in graduation

As schools started to cancel their graduation ceremonies due to the coronavirus pandemic, local companies partnered with the PowerPlex to donate money and services to create “curbside graduation.” Full construction on the new PowerPlex development has been postponed until after the graduation ceremonies and concerts are completed.  

“When we heard that our area schools were talking about doing yard signs, virtual commencements or delaying the graduation dates into July or August, we felt we just needed to do something about it,” said Bill Fogarty, president of Fogarty Services of Arnold, one of the largest audio-visual companies in the Midwest. “When the creative minds at the PowerPlex came to us with this idea to build a huge drive-in graduation with video trucks, Jumbotrons, livestreaming, along with food trucks offering curbside delivery to parents and family members, we said, ‘Count us in.’”  

“This campus will soon be completely renovated to serve thousands of young student athletes and families every week. So, we thought, ‘why not get a jump start on serving our community and do something special for the Class of 2020,” Buck said in a news release. 

 “We have all the necessary ingredients for a massive drive-in graduation. Huge parking lots, plenty of interior and exterior space to meet the social distancing requirements for the graduates and faculty, while the audience can stay in the safe confines of their cars watching everything on giant Jumbotrons and listening on their car radios,” added Buck. 

It was a solution that made a mother of a senior from Fort Zumwalt West High School happy with the innovation.

“My son’s senior class has been stripped of so many traditions, proms and sports opportunities because of Covid-19,” Tracy Ellis said. “I’m glad someone is coming up with a solution that delivers a real graduation for thousands of seniors. This will be an ultimate experience after a very difficult spring.”

Rockwood’s parents, teachers, administrators and Board of Education said at the kickoff of the graduation ceremonies that they are excited to bring their seniors a great send-off at the PowerPlex. 

“We were all torn about what to do. These young men and women have lost so much and deserve something special. As soon as we learned about this, our team rallied together with the PowerPlex folks and said, ‘Let’s do something incredible,” said Rockwood Superintendent Mark Miles. 

“I’m excited that our families will experience this unique approach to a once in a lifetime event,” said Ferguson-Florissant Superintendent Joseph Davis. 

More to Discover