MCHS to have an in person graduation

Class of 2021 graduation sign (Photo Courtesy of MCHS Instagram Page)

By Leo Herbstman, assistant editor

For updates on graduation, go to the Individual Graduation Plan

Maria Carrillo High School is planning on having an in person graduation for the Class of 2021. As long as Sonoma County remains out of the purple tier, meaning below 10 cases per 100 thousand on a seven day average, the June 4 graduation will be permitted, subject to restrictions and modifications.

The California Department of Public Health recently released guidelines for graduations in preparation for the upcoming end of the school year. According to Santa Rosa City Schools Assistant Superintendent Steve Mizera, the CDPH guidance is what the district will use when deciding how to run the graduations. 

CDPH graduation guidelines include separation of household groups by six feet or more, a mask requirement for all  except people giving their speeches, attendance limited to graduates, household members and school staff, tickets being distributed in advance, health screenings for COVID-19 symptoms for all attendees from home, graduates entering and sitting six feet apart, disinfecting the highly touched surfaces before and after the ceremony and reduced contact when handing out the diplomas. There are no specific guidelines for how many may attend a graduation specifically, but in terms of how to enter and exit, the guidelines say that there should be signage and markings that lead to single file aisles for people to come in and out.

Right now our plans are to have an actual graduation ceremony.

According to MCHS principal Katie Barr, “Right now our plans are to have an actual graduation ceremony. We do not know yet if it is going to be one or two so all families can attend. It all depends on our situation and the guidelines.” She added that if the county goes back into the purple tier, they do have a drive through ceremony as a backup.

“On Wednesday we heard from the County Superintendent [Steven Herrington] that, depending on the tier (red, orange or yellow), there will be different space guidelines. Now, that is for the total capacity of people that can attend, but it’s too early to get a final decision,” Mizera said. The orange tier would probably mean two parents or immediate family members per student, but that could increase or decrease based on the COVID-19 guidelines at the time of the graduation.

California does have specific guidelines on events such as sports, shows, etc. Sonoma County is currently in the orange tier, meaning that it has 5.9 cases or below per 100 thousand people on a seven day average. The orange tier is allowed to have 33 percent capacity, but that could increase to 67 percent if attendees show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours. 

However, Sonoma County is predicted to go into the yellow tier very soon, meaning it has 1.9 cases or below per 100 thousand people on a seven day average. The yellow tier means capacity limits can be raised to 67% without needed proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours.

Barr said that MCHS will base their planning for the ceremony on the sports guidelines. She added, “Right now the guidelines are saying 33 percent, so we will have to limit the guests but we are shooting for two parents for each student.” 

We’ve told Principals to worry first about getting students in person and not spend too much time on the other issues for now.

Mizera said that the district is telling the schools to have 33 percent capacity at its football stadiums where the graduations are being held. “Principals are trying to look at things like two shifts of ceremonies, so more than two people per student can attend,” he added. “We’ve told Principals to worry first about getting students in person and not spend too much time on the other issues for now.” He said that each stadium’s capacity in combination with how many households and how far they can be distanced will decide the rules for each graduation.

Speaking of the proof of vaccination or test requirement Barr said, “There has been thought of vaccination proof and testing, but at this point we do not know how that will work.” She added that right now the logistics of the capacity are going to be figured out in the coming weeks.

Right now there are events being planned for the seniors aside from graduation, mainly Project Grad and senior breakfast, which have become traditions but were cancelled last year with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project Grad is overseen by its president Katie Ruppe. According to Ruppe, as of now, Project Grad is planning or coordinating four events or celebrations for seniors: senior signs, senior breakfast, senior video and a dinner/dance on a yacht. However, there will be no post-graduation Grad Night, as has been tradition in the past.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions on indoor gatherings, they will not hold Grad Night, but there will be a replacement event on the Thursday night before graduation. Ruppe said, “We are doing a senior celebration in collaboration with other groups.” She added, “We are not providing transportation, but we are helping to coordinate different activities.” 

Rupee also explained, “The celebration is on a yacht in Alameda from 5:30-9:30 p.m. It holds a maximum of 200 people, and we are shooting for 150 as of now based on the current Alameda guidelines.” She added that there will be no testing requirement for attendees, but masks will be required except for eating.

“Sauvignon Blanc” Commodore Cruise Yacht (Photo Courtesy of Commodore Cruises and Events Website)

As for the other events being planned, the senior signs have been distributed to at least half of the recipients and should be finished soon, according to Ruppe . She also said that there would be a senior video, as they did last year, with all of the seniors being included.

Lastly, Ruppe said there will be a senior breakfast the Friday morning before graduation, as has been tradition in years before. “We are doing senior breakfast however they are doing graduation. If it is two groups, then we will do two breakfasts.” 

Barr captured a feeling many involved seemed to share: “I just want to honor our seniors, and I think these in person events are very important for achieving that goal.”

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