Pomp and Circumstance: Class of 2020 Considers Range of Possibilities for Commencement

Posted: Saturday, May 16th 2020

How do you mark a teenage rite-of-passage during a pandemic? With graduation season upon us, high schools in the San Diego Unified and nationwide are working to answer that question.

As the school year winds down with many health safeguards still in place in the county, including social distancing guidelines, students and educators are finalizing individual plans on how to celebrate the class of 2020. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has preempted traditional, in-person June commencement ceremonies, but San Diego Unified will celebrate its graduates and their accomplishments.

Alternatives to traditional, in-person June graduation ceremonies were discussed at the May 12 San Diego Unified Board of Education meeting.

Point Loma High School Senior and ASB President Ila Komasa presented findings to the Board from a student committee that helped organize a survey to seniors in the district regarding possibilities for how and when to mark graduation if a traditional ceremony has to be ruled out.

More than 2,600 seniors responded to a survey where they laid out their preferences, including the option of postponing in-person graduation until later in the summer, provided it can be held safely by adhering to public health guidelines.

Ila said among the options presented by seniors is the possibility of a virtual graduation ceremony at some point, if a physical graduation cannot be held on either a large- or small-scale this summer.

San Diego Unified seniors have demonstrated that they will not let these circumstances define them.

“We’re all pretty heartbroken, but we’ve also turned that into such dedication,” Ila said.

Superintendent Cindy Marten agreed with Ila and gave credit to the student committee that turned a setback into a search for alternatives..

“A very heartfelt thank you and deep respect for Ila and the work that she did leading this,” Marten said. “It’s truly inspirational.”

After hearing senior celebration suggestions from students presented in a letter read by Ila, Board Vice President Richard Barrera presented a motion that was unanimously supported by trustees.

Under the board’s recommendations, individual schools should have the freedom to develop their own creative plans (that are inclusive and meet public health guidelines) to celebrate the class of 2020 in June, while leaving open the possibility of another celebration or formal commencement in July or August.

Caps and gowns, diploma covers and graduation signs can be picked up at a student’s individual high school between May 27 and June 3. Details on specific pickup times and protocols will be announced when they are finalized. 

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