CINCINNATI, Ohio—While many high school students are missing out on typical graduation ceremonies, schools are thinking outside of the box to still make graduation as memorable as possible. 

  • Starlite Drive-In wants to offer high school graduation options to schools
  • The Ohio Department of Education originally only recommended virtual graduations, so many schools canceled their ceremony at Starlite
  • The Ohio Department of Education then released drive-in graduation guidelines

The Starlite Drive-In movie theater in Cincinnati is trying to be creative. They said they came up with an idea for drive in movie theater high school graduations. But they said they’re getting mixed signals between the Governor and the Ohio Department of Education.

Starlite Drive-In has been a staple in the Cincinnati area since 1947. Never did they think that instead of showing movies, they’d host high school graduations.

“I saw the governor had said to come up with creative ways to have graduations so we started offering that to some schools," Jeff Groner the Co-Owner of Starlite said.

At first, Starlite got a lot of attention and 24 schools booked their graduations. But then the Ohio Department of Education said they only recommend virtual graduation ceremonies.

“We don’t really know what’s going on as far as the rules are," Groner said. "Like anybody else, we’re waiting for approval from various government organizations and hopefully they’ll let us do it.”

The Ohio Department of Education has since released approved ideas for in-person graduation ceremonies, which include drive-in options. The guidelines state that either one student gets out of the car at a time to receive their diploma or everyone stays in the car and the diplomas are handed to the student inside. All participants are asked to wear masks. Starlite owners say they believe it’s a safe option for schools.

“We want to do something good for kids that couldn’t have a graduation," Groner said. "So if it’s possible, we’ll do it.”

Starlite is also not permitted to be open as a movie theater right now, despite major differences as typical theaters. 

“This is not like a sit down movie theater," Groner said. "It’s more like a carry-out restaurant where there happens to be a movie on the screen. People are sitting in their cars, eating their food. They’re not interacting with each other.”

Starlite is opening its concessions for carry out, but will not be allowed to show movies.

“We can sell food as a carry-out restaurant," Groner said. "People can sit in their car and eat their food like they do in a parking lot of McDonald’s I guess. But we’re not allowed to show a movie on a screen.”

And while Starlite is working to open back up fully, they’re hopeful they’ll be able to host graduations too.