The largest school district in Santa Barbara County is set to hold both virtual and physical events next month to honor the Class of 2020.
Graduation celebrations for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School will include drive-through celebrations, parades and online ceremonies.
The district of roughly 2,000 graduates will use innovation and creativity to honor the accomplishments of the graduating seniors, as large gatherings and school functions have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Despite the restrictions that keep changing, during this crisis we are committed to creating memories for the Class of 2020,” Kenny Klein, district spokesman, told the News-Press.
Delta High School in Santa Maria will kick off the events with a virtual, previously recorded graduation ceremony at 2 p.m. June 4. A link will be posted to the school’s website and the program will include awards, speeches from a keynote speaker, the class valedictorian and others.
Graduates’ names and photos will be displayed. A drive-through parade will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. that evening, as graduates will be given their awards, diplomas and a graduation pack.
The district’s three other high schools will hold their respective celebrations on June 5, starting with Pioneer Valley High School.
The Panthers will hold a drive-through graduation from 9 a.m. to noon to award diplomas in the student parking lot. Graduates are encouraged to decorate their vehicles with signs, balloons and streamers. The front passenger door cannot be covered, officials said.
Graduates are asked to arrive dressed in cap and gown and be in the front passenger seat. One car per family is requested with no more than five people. Participants are asked to remain in the car at all times. Envelopes will be handed out for graduates to include their mailing address and diploma covers will be presented during the event. Photos will be taken by event staff of each vehicle and its occupants to be mailed home. A pre-recorded virtual ceremony is also in the works, and more details are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Ernest Righetti High School will begin its celebration at 9:30 a.m., as the Warriors will join together for a YouTube ceremony. At 11 a.m., a drive-thru diploma distribution will be held in the school parking lot.
Earlier this month, Principal Karen Rotondi wrote a letter to parents and said that while a traditional ceremony later this summer would be “ideal,” it is doubtful large crowds would be permitted to assemble.
“Senior students indicated in the graduation survey that if a walk-the-stage graduation couldn’t take place, their next choice would be a virtual celebration followed by a ‘reunion’ in the fall or whenever possible. Righetti administration is 100% supportive of this idea and will continue communicating with the Class of 2020 as we move into the next school year,” she wrote.
Santa Maria High School will hold a virtual ceremony starting at 11 a.m., with a link posted to the school’s website. The Saints will also hold a drive-through celebration around 1 p.m. to distribute diplomas on campus near Thornburg Street. Each graduate is limited to one vehicle.
“Our graduating seniors deserve a dignified commencement. Our school principals and staff are working hard and creatively to provide a memorable experience for their students, given the existing challenges,” district Superintendent Antonio Garcia told the News-Press in an email.
For more information on the graduation plans, visit smjuhsd.k12.ca.us.