The end of the 2019-20 school year has inspired plenty of creativity and unique ideas as high school graduations have taken on a completely different tone.
Even a worldwide pandemic can't stop the celebrating.
Alpine School District wants to make sure to cap things off in style for its 10 schools, so it decided to honor its graduates with fireworks ... lots and lots of fireworks.
"The plan is to shoot off about 300 shells at each location," Director of District Operations Mike Browning said in a teleconference Thursday. "We are planning on a show lasting eight to 10 minutes. We wanted the fireworks to go high and wide so more people could see them from their backyards."
The goal is to get the pyrotechnics to be simultaneously fired off at all 10 schools.
That means graduates, their families and their communities can expect to see the night sky light up on Thursday, whether they lived in Eagle Mountain, Saratoga Springs, Lehi, Highland, Cedar Hills, Alpine, American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Lindon, Vineyard or Orem.
"Having them synchronized shows the united front that we have in Alpine School District with our graduation this year," said David Stephenson, administrator of Public Relations. "At the end, the grand finale for each show will end with fireworks in school colors for that specific high school. I've heard of people planning to go up in the mountains to see more than one show."
Browning was part of the committee given the assignment to put together the fireworks program.
"We started looking at each other and wondering how we were going to do this," Browning said. "We realized there are professionals out there. My background is not in pyrotechnics. We took it out to bid to fireworks companies and told them what we were looking for. We chose one of the bids, Firestorm Pyrotechnics, and they have been fantastic."
There were a number of logistical details to figure out — things like getting the proper permits and finding the right locations at each school to actually set off the fireworks. Browning said Firestorm Pyrotechnics played a big role in getting all of those things in place for Thursday's show.
"Our physical facilities director wasn't excited about setting off fireworks close to our buildings, but we looked at the requirements and found spots on all of our properties that would be safe," Browning said. "The company is bringing in certified pyrotechnics specialists to set everything up to do the job."
Browning said the expense came out to being around $1,500 per school, which was subsidized by the savings that came from the cancellation of rental fees for the traditional graduation venues.
From the beginning, the response to the firework plan was very positive across the district.
"Our post on social media about the fireworks got almost 20,000 reaches," said Kimberly Bird, assistant to the superintendent. "This is bringing everyone together. People are celebrating and it's a great thing to see. Our theme for the school year was 'Shine Alpine' and that ended up being so perfect. This really will be the perfect ending since it was all about shining together."
Thursday also featured parades and virtual graduation ceremonies that were posted on YouTube as the 10 schools completed their graduation efforts for the Class of 2020.
"This has really become a season of communities joining together," Stephenson said. "The fireworks throughout the district are going to be the culminating event."
Both Stephenson and Browning have children graduating this year and said that the efforts to laud the accomplishments of these graduates have been remarkable.
"As a parent watching this, seeing the community rallying behind these students is phenomenal," Stephenson said. "We've had businesses reach out, neighborhoods have held parades and so many things have gone on to make this extra-special for all of these seniors."
Browning was a principal for seven years and said being able to recognize the seniors in this way is something that means a lot to him.
"Being able to shake kids' hands as they came across the stage for that final hurrah was kind of the culmination of my career," Browning said. "Leaving that and coming to the district was rough on me. So this is a big deal. I haven't seen this fireworks show but I'm grateful we came up with this decision. Hopefully these kids will realize that we want to celebrate them as a class, the Class of 2020. They are starting their next phase of life and hopefully this is the sendoff to say that Alpine School District salutes you."