Social distancing and stay-at-home orders across the country have thrown a wrench in peoples' plans, including high school seniors set to graduate in  June.  Most schools have been forced to hold their ceremonies online, but one Southern California school district’s solution is having graduates ride the lifts to receive their diplomas.

Robert Chacon, Assistant Superintendent of Business for Snowline Joint Unified School District, said the idea came to him from a school on the East Coast. Chacon, who loved the idea, contacted nearby Mountain High Resort, which agreed to host the unique commencement — free of charge.

On Wednesday, June 3, roughly two months after the typical ski season in Southern California ends, the lifts at Mountain High will be filled with 527 graduating seniors.  Graduates consist of 407 students from Serrano High School and 120 students from non-traditional high schools such as Chaparral, Snowline Academy, and Eagle Summit Community Day School.

 "The response has been awesome," Chacon said. "Most families wanted an in-person experience, not just a virtual ceremony or a drive up event. Given the state of things, this is a great way to celebrate their achievements while still practicing social distancing.

The day begins at 10:00am with students from non-traditional schools (Chaparral, Snowline Academy, and Eagle Summit Community Day School) ascending the lifts first.  At 11am, graduates from Serrano High School begin their trip to the top in order of name.

  • A, B -11:00 am
  • C, D, E -11:30 am
  • F,G,H,I,J -12:00 pm
  • K,L,M,N -12:45 pm
  • O,P,Q,R -1:30 pm
  • S,T,U,V,W,X,Y,Z -2:15 pm

Students who are unable to make their scheduled time are asked to arrive at 2:45 pm.

Students are placed on every 5th chair and limited to three (3) household members per party.  In the lift lines, social distancing is enforced and face masks are required.

After a 4 minute ride, graduates and family members arrive at the top where their school principal greets them with their diploma and congratulatory speech.  Students have the chance to take a photo, enjoy the scenery, then head back down.

Says Karl Kapuscinski, President and CEO of Mountain High, “This is an amazing event and we are so glad we were able to make it happen.”

In addition to the chair lift ride, Snowline School District is producing a “virtual gradation” with photos and video clips provided by the students plus speeches from the Valedictorian, Salutatorian, principle, and Super Intendent.

For more information or to film the graduation, please contact John McColly, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, at (760) 221-3945 or Follow Mountain High Resorts on Instagram @mthighsnow, Twitter @mthigh and Facebook.

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