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By Will Fritz
Associate Editor 

Many districts move to hold 2020 graduations virtually


Last updated 5/9/2020 at 12:57pm

Village News/Shane Gibson photo

Fallbrook Union High School 2019 graduates wait their turns to collect their diplomas.

As the coronavirus pandemic drags on, local school districts are increasingly turning to virtual graduations to honor seniors who won't be able to receive their diplomas in person due to orders banning public gatherings.

When public health orders forced schools to close in March, many districts did not commit one way or the other on when and how graduations would take place.

Some districts are still weighing the decision, but as of the beginning of May, many have come to the conclusion that in-person graduations cannot go on.

In the Fallbrook-Bonsall area, both Fallbrook Union High School District and Bonsall Unified School District – the only two local districts with comprehensive high schools – have both announced plans to move forward with virtual graduations.

"We know that many students, particularly our graduating seniors, were looking forward to celebrating with graduation ceremonies and other senior activities, including Prom and Grad Night," Bonsall Unified said in an announcement to parents on April 23. "Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with a heavy heart, we must announce that all school events for the rest of the year have been canceled."

Bonsall Unified officials said while they were still working on plans for a virtual graduation ceremony, they are dedicated to celebrating seniors' accomplishments in a "safe and memorable way." Details on the event will be shared "as soon as possible," they said.

Bonsall High School Principal Jason Fowler said while only a virtual graduation is being planned for June 10, he and district officials are "keeping a close eye on the current situation and if things improve, we are opening to reassessing that decision."

Fallbrook Union High School District's Governing Board decided at its May 4 meeting to move forward with virtual graduations, but details on how they might look were not immediately available.

Many other school districts across the region are also moving graduations online.

One of those districts is Temecula Valley Unified, which announced May 4 that all graduations will be held in a virtual form that will "closely mirror and memorialize the elements of the in-person graduations of the past as best possible."

The virtual ceremonies, according to an email sent to students and parents, will include introduction music, speeches and performances, graduate presentation, tassel-turning and cap tossing.

Each graduation will also be formatted into videos to be uploaded to school websites and YouTube, as well as broadcast on the city of Temecula's public access television channel. The videos are expected to be available in the second half of June, after the ceremonies take place June 4.

Additionally, each high school will have a dedicated webpage with information for graduating seniors, including information on times to pick up caps and gowns and yearbook distribution.

"All item pick-ups and coordination for virtual graduation will take place safely using county mandated practices," TVUSD's announcement said. "More specific information will be forthcoming as delivery dates and times become concrete, and communication can be sent out to senior students to coordinate these events."

Murrieta Valley Unified told seniors and their parents in an announcement April 24 that while officials were not sure what restrictions will look like when graduations roll around in the first week of June and were hopeful that an in-person ceremony would be possible, they are now planning on virtual graduation ceremonies.

"Like you, we know an in-person ceremony is everybody's preference, however, the health and safety of our students and their families and abiding by public health orders is a priority," the district said in its announcement. "Based upon our best guess of what type of restrictions may exist when we arrive at graduation time, the decision was made to proceed at this time with having a virtual graduation at minimum."

Murrieta Valley officials said they are still planning details of how the virtual ceremonies will be organized, but that each student will be able to participate individually and "will have an opportunity to submit pictures and/or information they would like to share with our virtual audiences."

"In the interim and to the extent possible, the virtual graduation ceremony will replicate as many components of an in-person graduation ceremony, including student speeches, honors and student recognition, etc.," Murrieta Valley officials said. "The ceremony will be streamed for families to view from the comfort and safety of their own homes and may be shared with friends and families throughout the world."

Will Fritz can be reached by email at [email protected]


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