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District: Citrus Heights high schools will have ‘virtual graduation’ due to COVID-19

San Juan High School, Citrus Heights
San Juan High School in Citrus Heights, located at 7551 Greenback Ln. // CH Sentinel

By Rylie Friesen-
The San Juan Unified School District last week announced a decision to celebrate graduation through a live-streamed ceremony on YouTube.

“In light of the COVID-19 situation and current social distancing orders, a virtual option for graduation ceremonies ensures the health and safety of our students, families and school communities,” the district said on its website. 

Mesa Verde High School will have its graduation live-streamed at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 8. San Juan High School’s graduation will be held the following day, June 9, at 7 p.m., according to a schedule posted on the district’s website.

“I want to ask you to consider participating in these virtual events with your classmates,” said SJUSD Superintendent Kent Kern in a May 7 letter to seniors. “Dress up in your cap and gown and get that epic selfie to share with everyone.”

The virtual ceremonies will include pre-recorded speeches by students and staff, along with personalized slides and name announcements for each graduate, the district said.

Alumni of San Juan High School announced in a newsletter that a donation of $1000 has been made in dedication to the students graduating. The money will go towards 130 gift bags being created for each graduating student. Money has also been raised to create a custom T-shirt for each senior. 

While other school districts have also opted to host virtual ceremonies, Placer Union High School District announced Wednesday that it will be holding in-person graduation ceremonies, where no more than 50 students will be present at a time. 

San Juan Unified School District answered frequently asked questions on the subject:

Q: Why have a virtual graduation? Why not wait until the COVID-19 stay-at-home order is lifted and do a traditional ceremony at that time?

A: Virtual graduation events allow us to meet two of the largest interests we heard from students, staff and families. First, to make sure that we honor the class of 2020 for their accomplishment and second to do so in a way that includes as many of our students with their peers as possible. 

There are no indications that health restrictions will be eased to allow in-person group events of any reasonable size prior to the end of the year, at which time we know many of our students will depart for colleges, careers and military service. 

Q: Could you have hosted an in-person ceremony using social distancing?

A: Unfortunately based on the current Sacramento County stay-at-home order, an in-person gathering is not possible at this time. The order has been extended through May 22, which is just a few weeks before our first scheduled graduations. While we do expect the order will be modified in coming weeks, we have been given no indication that group gatherings are likely to be allowed. In order to be able to still honor our graduates in some way, we chose a virtual option that can still occur regardless if the order is extended beyond May 22. Should circumstances change we will revisit our plan.

Q: Why not host graduation at the drive-in theater, so we can see students cross the stage and honk.

A: Renting the drive-in screens is costly and is not large enough to meet the demand for all of our families to attend. Also, that option would still require a pre-recorded ceremony. Seniors would not be crossing a stage – they would be in a car with their family, watching the video on the big screen. Additionally, this option presented an equity issue, as not all families have a vehicle to use for the drive-in experience. 

Additional questions and answers are posted at

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