Saturday, October 24, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 34

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 3rd, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 14

Public health officer loosens restrictions on graduation ceremonies

By Malea Martin

After speaking with concerned school administrators, district officials, and parents, county Supervisor-elect Bob Nelson sent a letter to public health officials on May 22 asking for a few concessions in the county’s initial restrictions set for graduation ceremonies. On May 26, Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg issued an updated health order allowing for some changes.

While the updated health order is not officially in response to Nelson’s letter, the changes that Nelson pushed for are reflected in the updated allowances in the new order.

“The two big ones that I identified was the idea that there would be no diplomas or awards handed out, and the second one was that everybody had to stay in the car the entire time,” Nelson told the Sun. “There is something special about receiving a diploma, walking across the stage and getting your photo, cap, and gown.”

Nelson said he believes that allowing these rites of passage could happen without putting anyone at increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

“School districts all throughout the county had been providing lunches and homework packets for kids the entire time,” Nelson said. “Being able to hand them a diploma doesn’t seem to be a big risk. … The second part was if they could get out of the car—not to interact with anybody, not hugging teachers—just able to go grab their diploma and take a picture on a stage, that seems pretty reasonable.”

The updated order states that “graduates may be outside the vehicle to walk across a stage, receive a diploma/award, or have a photo taken as long as social distancing of at least 6 feet is maintained at all times; and diplomas, certificates, and programs may be distributed from school to graduate or participants in car.”

Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Public Information Officer Kenny Klein told the Sun that in light of the updated order, students from his district will now be allowed to receive diplomas and walk across a stage.

“Before, students weren’t [allowed] to get out of the car, and now they are,” he said.

Nelson believes these small concessions will make a big difference for the graduates and their families. 

“I graduated from Righetti, and I used to teach here locally, so I understand what these events mean to the youth in our community, and wanted to make sure that I was doing everything that I could to help facilitate the safe utilization of the opportunities for graduation,” he said.

One parent he spoke with while preparing to send his letter particularly stood out to him.

“I talked to a mom who graduated from high school here locally, but her parents had died when she was in high school so she had to work and graduate early,” he said. “So she didn’t actually walk across the stage, but now her son is graduating this year and she was telling me how much it meant to her and her family. This is an opportunity that was big for both her son and her.” 

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