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Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

Dana Hills High School’s class of 2020 held a modified graduation ceremony on Friday, July 24, that implemented social distancing and face mask policies.

While graduation is typically held in June each year for Dana Hills, the novel coronavirus pandemic cancelled and postponed ceremonies for graduating seniors across the globe. Students within Capistrano Unified School District were forced to carry out their coursework through distance learning.

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In April, surveys were sent to students, parents and principals to gauge how graduation should proceed, with 75% of students wanting to postpone ceremonies until later in the summer and only 4% of students interested in a video presentation. As for parents, 68% want to postpone until the summer, and 13% were interested in the video option.

Principals reportedly felt the June 4 date should be commemorated and physical distancing considered, and anything after the week of July 20 would be difficult to plan for and make happen considering the upcoming preparations for the next school year.

With high schools having moved forward with the delayed ceremony, Dana Hills Principal Brad Baker says the event was as good, if not better, than previous ceremonies considering the circumstances.

“If you think about what makes a traditional ceremony special, it’s the fact that teachers, staff and families are celebrating our students’ accomplishments and the relationships we have with them,” Baker said. “We were still able to honor both of those things in a different and creative way that made the ceremony special and authentic.”

Rather than gathering on the football field and filling the stadium with family and friends, staff set up a stage at the front of campus. A vehicle drive-thru was setup for graduating seniors to exit the car in a timed fashion to allow for social distancing and walk across the stage. Some students and families decorated their vehicles in celebration of the rite of passage.

Students and staff both wore face masks, with the exception of students momentarily removing their face mask while posing for a photo with their diploma.

“You always remember the first graduation as principal, but this one, we will never forget,” said Baker, who began his position as principal in fall 2019. “I was so proud of our families, our kids. They followed all the safety guidelines and they kept it about graduation.”

With the ordering of students being organized alphabetically, the ceremony took just under three hours with 600 students receiving their diploma.

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