Napa high schools prepare to honor Class of 2020 amid stay-home order, with 2021 festivities possible
In this strangest of graduation seasons, leaders of the Napa public school system are working to give high school graduates-to-be a memorable farewell amid a pandemic that has halted crowds, assemblies and public celebrations of all kinds.
The Napa Valley Unified School District's Class of 2020 – denied the usual commencement audience of thousands by the coronavirus epidemic – will be honored with speeches online and private on-campus ceremonies open only to high school seniors and their families. And educators also hope to give this year's graduates the pomp and circumstance made impossible by California's COVID-19-driven shutdown – by inviting them back to Napa for a belated ceremony in 2021.
Directors of NVUSD on Friday shared their most detailed plans to date to pay tribute to some 1,400 students completing their studies at Napa, Vintage, American Canyon and New Technology High, which were to hold graduation ceremonies in the first week of June. Instead of gowned seniors tossing mortarboards into the air before football stadiums filled with well-wishers, this year's graduations will combine online video with family-only diploma ceremonies to prevent close contact during the pandemic.
The district is organizing a prerecorded video to honor the departing seniors, a program expected to feature a principal address, speeches by award-winning graduates and the reading of all seniors' names. In addition, each individual high school will host ceremonies where graduates can accept their diplomas and meet a skeleton staff of faculty members for the final time, according to Superintendent Rosanna Mucetti.
To conform to county and state social distancing rules during the pandemic, only seniors' relatives staying in their vehicles will be allowed to attend the on-campus events, although Mucetti described plans to livestream the gatherings to allow other relatives and friends to witness graduations from afar.
“We've worked on (fulfillling) the desire to have celebrations and closure while adhering to the health rules,” said Monica Ready, principal of Napa High. “We want to capture that special moment, to celebrate and recognize our seniors. When they left on March 13 (the day NVUSD's board voted to close classrooms and move to online instruction), we weren't aware they weren't returning again this year, so this will give them the opportunity to return to campus one more time and have some closure.”
Napa High School announced Sunday morning in a Facebook posting it has scheduled diploma acceptance walks for graduates on June 4 and 5. Distribution of senior care packages – including caps, gowns, yearbooks and yard signs – is set for May 26-29, along with a “scholarship assembly” on May 27, according to the posting, which was later verified by Mucetti.
Vintage, American Canyon and New Tech will announce their schedules for Class of 2020 activities at a later date.
Meanwhile, a Napa alternative school will follow the lead of others opting for “drive-in” graduation ceremonies to minimize close contact.
Twenty-five students from Camille Creek Community School, which is operated by the Napa County Office of Education, will be honored at noon June 4 at the department offices at 2121 Imola Ave., according to spokesperson Seana Wagner. One family per graduate will be allowed to attend in a single vehicle, and only the student will step outside to pick up his or her diploma from a table, with school leaders present but socially distanced. A photographer will be on hand, and the event will be shown on a livestream that also can be viewed afterward.