RIDGEFIELD — Seniors in black caps and gowns with Tiger-orange trim wandered a full school parking lot as they and their families prepared to watch graduation ceremonies on large screens.

Ridgefield High School’s 380 seniors graduated in two half-class sessions Thursday afternoon — commencement in the age of coronavirus.

Applause, cheers and the honking of horns followed speeches, and punctuated the reading of graduates’ names.

“You’ve been a joy to work with,” Principal Stacey Gross told her last class of seniors, “and, as difficult as it is for me to retire and leave RHS, I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to share my final year here with you.”

In her speech to her peers, class President Clodagh Ryan admitted this wasn’t the graduation they expected, but “I am so glad we get to honor and recognize the amazing accomplishments the seniors have achieved these last four years.”

“For our class, spirit means kindness towards each other, a sense of community, and pride in our school,” she said. “... The most recent moment many of us will never forget was when we stormed the court after our boy's basketball team won the FCIAC championships. Another highlight was when our football team won against New Canaan with a last-minute field goal. The senior section lit up with a roar, and the energy in that moment was unforgettable.”

Class speaker Kyra Linekin noted 2020’s strange turn, with coronavirus shutting down classes.

“It was in the late afternoon of March 12 when we first heard that school would be canceled indefinitely. I was driving with a few of my best friends, and we let out a collective cheer,” she said. “Had we known that we had just attended our last day of high school, I don’t think our reaction would have been the same. ... But as I stand here today, wishing I could be congratulating my best friends on our big day with hugs rather than Facetime calls, it strikes me that the place I came to call home is not in a specific location, but in the people I met along the way.”

Meanwhile, valedictorian Questin McQuilkin emphasized the new freedom graduates possess after the “grueling” days of high school were now behind them.

“We’ve grown together. Friend groups expanded at RHS, welcomed new members and thrived,” he said. “... The friendships that resulted from this growth will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

“This graduation may be the end of our high school experience, but it is certainly not the end of our growth. It’s been a good few years. Let’s make these next ones even better.”