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San Diego’s High School Seniors Consider Alternative Ways To Celebrate Graduations And Proms

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.
Milan Kovacevic
The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.

As the coronavirus has laid waste to end-of-the-year activities like proms and graduation ceremonies, some high school seniors are proposing alternatives.

At San Diego Unified School District’s board meeting on Tuesday, student leaders presented ideas on how to safely celebrate their milestones.

“We’re so proud of all our Class of 2020 seniors for all their accomplishments and for graduating,” said Ila Komasa, the president of the Council of ASB Presidents at San Diego Unified. “We still have a lot of hope to do an in-person graduation and we’re still working on that process.”


Under a best-case scenario, students would have in-person graduations in late July or early August. Those especially vulnerable to the coronavirus would be urged to stay home. The next option would be an in-person ceremony with graduating classes broken up into smaller groups to ensure safe social distancing. The least desirable option would be a virtual graduation.

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The proposal passed unanimously at Tuesday night’s board meeting. While students wait to see if public health guidelines will allow for in-person events in July or August, individual schools will decide if they want to virtually commemorate their graduates as was scheduled in June. But some students are weary of celebrating from behind a computer screen.

“I thoroughly hate the idea of doing anything virtual for graduation or prom or any senior stuff,” said Marianne Byrd, a senior at San Diego High School.

Byrd said she was not excited about high school events when she was a freshman and sophomore. Now that she’s a senior, she’s learned to appreciate the school community.

Byrd said she’d be more sad with a virtual graduation and prom than nothing at all. She said “being there” is the most important part.


“It’s not comparable,” she said. “There’s just so much that goes into prom and that goes into graduation.”

San Diego Unified School District closed its schools and canceled in-person events in mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It launched formal distance learning in April.

Byrd said she would be willing to attend a prom in July or August, but some of her friends likely wouldn’t be able to attend.

“I’m a little biased because I’m staying in San Diego,” she said. “But I know a lot of kids who are going out of state or out of country for college.”

Student leaders found in their surveys of thousands of students that late July or early August would work for most students.

“That was the time frame where it seemed like the latest option where the majority of students would still be at home and in San Diego,” Komasa said.

Regardless, Byrd hopes that someday, the Class of 2020 will be able to make up for all they’ve had to sacrifice.

“The class of 2020 has to have an awesome 10 year reunion or something like that to try and make up for this,” she said.