The last day of school is a day to which many students look forward. It means the start of summer.

This year, students and teachers marked the last day of school and celebrated eighth-grade promotion ceremonies and high school graduations in a different way.

Virtual and drive-up ceremonies are the norm now due to the coronavirus pandemic. Schools have had to find alternative ways to celebrate the end of the year while adhering to the recommended social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of the virus.

It’s been a rough few months.

Families have faced the challenges of distance learning for the latter part of the school year and now graduating students are missing the opportunity to participate in traditional commencement exercises.

Students are not be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with their classmates, be congratulated by administration or hug their friends in celebration.

Schools throughout the Greater New Milford area have stepped up in a big way to make sure the end of the year is special.

Bubbles blew on the wind, horns beeped and teachers cheered and held up signs on the sidewalks Tuesday at Sarah Noble Intermediate School in New Milford as families participated in a parade of cars.

My daughter rolled down her window and watched out anxiously to see her fourth-grade teacher.

As we drove along the route, Eleanor commented how much fun the parade was. I agreed and shared that I wouldn’t mind doing a sendoff like this every year.

While the events offered aren’t what students had expected, these events are memorable.

Both Sherman School and Kent Center School held their eighth-grade graduations June 12. Sherman students held a social distancing ceremony, while Kent students participated in a drive-up ceremony.

Families and students of Sherman School decorated a vehicle and parked in Veterans Field. Students walked in procession six feet or more apart and accepted their diploma one at a time (see photographs, this page and Page S1 and S9).

Warren School also offered its own celebration.

Eighth graders at Schaghticoke Middle School in New Milford received their diplomas at three separate team drive-up ceremonies Monday.

Students arrived in decorated vehicles and were cheered on by staff that held congratulatory signs, sprayed bubbles and danced to music played by a disc jockey as the vehicles traveled throughout the parking lot, ending at a tent where Principal Christopher Longo presented students their diploma through the car window.

Shepaug Valley High School and New Milford High School seniors will participate in a parade of cars and conclude with a special ceremony Saturday.

New Milford’s parade will start at Sarah Noble Intermediate School and end at the high school, where they will earn their diploma.

Shepaug students are invited to participate in a parade through Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater. They will then head to the Bridgewater fairgrounds where they will receive their diploma.

In addition to the altered format of NMHS’ ceremony, something unique will happen.

This will be the first time since at least 2003 that New Milford students will graduate on high school property!

New Milford High School has held its commencement exercises at Western Connecticut State University’s O’Neill Center to accommodate a large class size and students’ families and general logistics.

Many schools in the region use the O’Neill Center for that reason.

Having graduated on the grounds of New Milford High School myself, I recognize how special it is to graduate on school property. After all, that’s where I spent four years of my high school career.

I hope all graduates will pause and reflect on just how special the end of the school year is. It may not be what anyone expected or hoped for, but it is unique and memorable.

And NMHS grads, you’ve got an added bonus of being on school grounds to receive your diploma. Treasure this moment.

Congratulations, everyone!

Deborah Rose is a lifelong New Milford resident who has worked at The Spectrum since its inception in 1998. She can be reached by email at drose@newstimes.com.