As areas around the state begin to loosen stay at home orders, Cardozo Middle School faculty and administrators had one final meeting, of sorts, with the 2020 graduating class of eighth graders this past week.
On Wednesday, May 20, Cardozo staff members took up pre-designated, six-foot-apart positions on the sidewalk along the front of the campus, cheering and waving signs, making noise and waving as families, friends and eighth grade class members drove past the campus, honking, cheering and even waving signs of their own.
Many of the vehicles were decorated, some with balloons, some with posters, some with students standing, sticking out of the sunroof on top.
And for some, it was back and forth down Santa Fe Street, in front of the campus, making several laps through the drive-by. More than a few families, after completing their ‘laps,’ chose to park in front of the houses across the street and become a cheering squad of their own for the graduates that came after them.
Although the traditional promotion ceremony did not occur Cardozo Middle School Principal Kevin Bizzini and staff were glad to at least host alternate plans for eighth graders being promoted to High School.
“The current health crisis has changed the way we have to think about conducting large school events,” stated Bizzini. “Our traditional promotion ceremony typically has 800 or more people attending. The look and feel of our annual eighth grade promotion will have to change if current social distancing expectations reach into next spring.”
He added, “Every student that would have experienced graduation or promotion this week is feeling a little cheated and understandably so. My hope is that the Cardozo class of 2020 is feeling the sting of lost opportunity a little less after Wednesday’s celebration. The eighth grade procession in front of the school was not what we had planned in August, but collectively the Cardozo staff made it a very special day for our promoting eighth graders and the community of Riverbank.”
This past Friday was the final day of school for CMS although for most the school year ended in March, unofficially.
With the abrupt end to the school year it posed challenges for all involved including the teachers and administration.
“The exclamation of this school year has to be on the opportunities lost for all of our students,” said Bizzini. “Two months of instruction in a format that most schools did not have adequate time to prepare for undoubtedly had an impact on our students. As an educational system, we learned some valuable lessons regarding distant learning and will make the necessary adjustments to meet the needs of students in the event we have to return to it in the future.”
During the COVID-19 days the understanding and support of students and families has been crucial for all to get through the remaining school year.
“Our students and their families have been amazing throughout this experience,” expressed Bizzini. “Distant learning presented a challenge for our entire school community. The added burden the shelter in place directives put on families was unprecedented, but community support behind the district’s implementation of distant learning was unwavering. In all of my communication with students and parents, over the past eight weeks, the feedback was positive and supportive. It seemed like a collective effort to mitigate any negative impact to our kids.”
As far as the celebration itself, one creative teacher chose to participate in the activity dressed as a Cardozo Middle School Eagle, the school’s mascot. Another held a written poster saying “Fly Like Eagles,” encouraging their now former students to launch into the next phase of their education, at high school next year.
Riverbank Unified School District Superintendent Christine Facella also helped cheer on the graduates, noting that their certificates would soon be in the mail.
News Reporter Virginia Still contributed to this story.