Local districts that had tentative plans for summer graduation ceremonies announce cancellations

As graduation plans were being modified in the spring amid COVID-19 concerns, a handful of Orange County school districts were holding out hope that they’d be able to stage traditional, in-person celebrations for the class of 2020 sometime this summer.

In fact, several campuses had tentative plans for July and August ceremonies.

But with the state continuing to restrict large gatherings — and educators gearing up for distance learning in the fall — several districts have officially announced that in-person commencements are off the table.

Here are a few recent graduation updates from local districts.

Capistrano Unified School District

While officials in Capistrano Unified were hoping for an opportunity to host commencement events at their local high school stadiums, they’ve affirmed that won’t be possible under the latest California Department of Public Health guidelines.

Instead, each high school will celebrate graduates on Friday, July 24 during a “Walk Through Procession” event. Students will remain in their vehicles until they arrive at a specific location on campus where they’ll get to walk across a formal graduation stage, receive their diploma covers, be congratulated by staff, flip their tassels, and take photos before re-entering their car and exiting the parking lot.

Graduation names and photos from each of these events will be shared later on the CUSD Insider.

Laguna Beach Unified School District

Laguna Beach High School was looking forward to celebrating its graduates with a traditional in-person ceremony during the week of July 27. But “with a heavy heart” the district recently shared that an additional graduation event won’t be happening.

On June 11, seniors got the chance to participate in a drive-thru ceremony that allowed them to take a social-distanced walk in the campus stadium as their families cheered. The district has shared these photos from that event, along with a graduation ceremony video and a class of 2020 podcast.

Los Alamitos Unified School District

The Los Alamitos community hosted a Senior Car parade back in May, but the district has had to cancel a seperate high school graduation event tentatively planned for Aug. 10.

Superintendent Andrew Pulver says Los Alamitos is reaching out to local families to determine if they would prefer to have a virtual or drive-up graduation or if they would rather wait until Thanksgiving break for a possible in-person option.

Orange Unified School District

Orange Unified officials had tentatively planned to host graduation ceremonies at Fred Kelly Stadium at the end of July. But public health directives continue to prohibit large community gatherings.

“We realize this is another disappointment during what has already been a very challenging year,” Superintendent Gunn Marie Hansen said. “Regardless, we are proud of our Class of 2020 and the resilience, fortitude, and perseverance they have demonstrated. These traits will serve them well throughout their lives, and we wish them nothing but the best.”

The district said virtual graduation ceremonies for Canyon High School, El Modena High School, Orange High School, Parkside and Richland High School and Villa Park High School are available on YouTube, along with a video of the victory lap around the Orange Plaza.

Saddleback Valley Unified School District

Saddleback Valley Unified had pushed its commencement ceremonies back to July 31 — with the understanding that a final decision would be made on July 15. The latest guidance from local and state health authorities gave the district no choice but to cancel its end-of-month celebrations.

“While I understand how disappointing the cancellation of the ceremony is, including for myself, I’m hopeful that our seniors and families took advantage of participating in the senior activities that were held at all of our high school sites to celebrate our students including the photo opportunities on campus in caps and gowns, the drive-through car parades on campus and finally, the senior celebration videos that were produced and streamed by each site,” Superintendent Crystal Turner said.

Tustin Unified School District

Tustin Unified had delayed its graduations from May to August, hoping conditions would improve enough to allow for in-person events. But citing the governor’s order prohibiting community gatherings, as well as the local surge in COVID-19 cases, Superintendent Gregory Franklin told parents and students this week that high school graduation ceremonies will be held virtually.

“TUSD knows it won’t be the same as an in-person event,” Franklin said, “but we will do our very best to deliver an outstanding program to honor the members of the Class of 2020.”

Tustin graduates can watch a livestream of their schools’ graduation ceremonies with family and friends on the dates and times listed below. More details will be sent to parents and posted on school websites.

  • Tuesday, Aug. 4: Tustin Adult School and Tustin Connect at 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 5: Foothill and Beckman at 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 6: Hillview and Tustin at 6 p.m.

Did you spot an error or omission? Let us know at communications@ocde.us.