Santa Barbara district’s high schools get creative with commencements during pandemic
With the 2020 school year coming to a close, Santa Barbara Unified School District high schools are finding new, creative ways to throw on their graduation ceremonies while still adhering to the statewide social distancing guidelines.
After years of renovations, the Santa Barbara High School class of 2020 was supposed to be the first class to continue with the school’s tradition of walking down the hill after the recent renovation of Peabody Stadium. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school was forced to temporarily switch its traditional graduation ceremony.
The sudden change in plans still didn’t prevent California’s third oldest high school from kicking off the week’s graduation celebrations on Monday with an all-day Senior Salute that involved students and their families driving through the campus to receive their diplomas.
During the drive-through ceremony, vehicles were decorated in the school’s colors of olive and gold as students and their loved ones drove through campus.
The seniors were met with a line of teachers and faculty cheering them on as they individually got out of their cars in front of the high school where they received their diploma and got a picture with their principal, Dr. Elise Simmons.
“There is something about being here that’s special,” faculty member Eric Nichoson said. “Some of the people you see driving through here today had their great grandparents go here.”
Mr. Nichoson is a special education and ninth-grade math teacher who has worked at Santa Barbara High School for 15 years. He said he was happy to see that students and faculty were still able to celebrate these students’ accomplishments.
Although the seniors have already received their diplomas, the school district’s public information officer, Camie Barnwell, said the school still plans to hold a traditional ceremony in Peabody Stadium when people are allowed to gather in person again.
Different from Santa Barbara High, Dos Pueblos and San Marcos high schools have found a way to have everyone celebrate together while they hold their graduation ceremonies this Wednesday.
By utilizing the school’s giant student parking lot, Dos Pueblos Principal William Woodard, said the school’s graduation will be as close to normal as possible.
Similar to a drive-in movie, the school’s plan is to keep students and their families in their vehicles while they watch the ceremony on two giant projections that will be displayed on the school’s performing arts center. Along with the projections, the school will stream audio to each vehicle using a FM radio transmitter.
They may not get to shake hands, but as long as they remain 6 feet apart, the seniors at Dos Pueblos High will also be able to walk across the stage in front of their peers just like a normal graduation ceremony.
“We feel this experience gives our graduates what they felt was most important — a communal experience at their high school, and a chance to be recognized in front of classmates and family,” Dos Pueblos High School said in a press release.
San Marcos High School’s commencement will be similar to Dos Pueblos’. Students and their families will watch together in their vehicles at the school while listening to an FM radio transmitter.