Thousands of students in north Texas will cross the high-school finish line in a memorable way this year, graduating on “Victory Lane” at the Texas Motor Speedway (TMS).
Superintendents from across Denton County are working with the speedway to ensure graduations take place.
With the COVID-19 restrictions and cancellation of the remainder of the school year by Governor Abbott, graduation plans were uncertain.
Twenty-three high schools will host ceremonies at TMS including schools from Aubrey ISD, Argyle ISD, Denton ISD, Krum ISD, Lake Dallas ISD, Lewisville ISD, Little Elm ISD, Northwest ISD, Pilot Point ISD, Ponder ISD, Sanger ISD, and Westlake Academy.
Gowned graduates with full regalia wearing masks will cross a staging area to receive their diplomas.
Family and friends may observe from their vehicles parked in the TMS infield. The infield has over 1100 parking spots, according to the TMS website.
The graduation ceremony will be broadcast on its 12-story tall “Big Hoss,” the world’s largest HDTV for those in vehicles and at home to see, TMS officials said.
“A high school graduation ceremony is such an important achievement and lifelong memory for students as well as their families and friends. We are honored by the opportunity to support each and every Denton County high school graduate as best we can in these difficult times,” said Eddie Gossage, president and general manager of Texas Motor Speedway.
Senior Grant Hull of Little Elm High School is looking forward to graduating with his classmates on May 21. His school previously talked about an online, live-streamed ceremony, but he is more excited about graduating at Texas Motor Speedway.
“I’m looking forward to being able to walk the stage and see my friends one last time,” Hull said, remembering that they left for spring break and just never went back to school. He is leaving to major in biology at the Honors College of the University of Mississippi in the fall.
One of the smaller Denton County schools, Krum High School, will host its ceremony at the speedway on May 18 at 8:00 p.m. with about 135 students receiving their diplomas.
Normally, Krum holds its ceremony at Denton Bible Church, which is a much more intimate setting, Superintendent Cody Carroll told The Texan. The ceremony had been rescheduled for July, but the administration was nervous about the possibility of a second surge of coronavirus and another cancellation.
“This is nobody’s ideal situation but we are glad to be giving the senior class of 2020 the memorable experience they deserve,” Carroll said.
In case of rain, TMS could move graduates under cover for the ceremony, Carroll added.
Lewisville ISD, one of Denton County’s largest school districts, will host five ceremonies at TMS, three on Saturday, May 23 and two on Sunday, May 24.
The TMS option was the only one that was guaranteed to be approved by Denton County officials, according to Lewisville ISD’s website. Alternate ideas of postponing graduation until late June or July were too uncertain with a possibility of cancellation if the social distance restrictions have not been lifted by then.
“We’ve had a very favorable response,” David Hart, vice-president of communications for TMS told The Texan. “As word has gotten out, we’ve received requests from other schools as well.”
The school districts will incur costs for hosting the ceremonies at the speedway, but the costs will be minimal, Hart added.
The NASCAR racing site is in the northern part of Fort Worth near the intersection of I-35W and Texas Highway 114. It opened in 1996 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his first Cup at the track. It has postponed one of its largest races of the year, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.