SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - It was a socially-distant send-off for many high school seniors Wednesday.
San Marcos and Dos Pueblos High Schools in the Santa Barbara area held modified graduation ceremonies for graduating seniors, mostly keeping graduates and their families in their cars.
San Marcos graduates and families parked decorated cars in the school's parking lots, often honking horns in celebration. They watched a Zoom broadcast of their ceremony happening inside the school's auditorium. Two students were allowed in the auditorium to speak, along with principal Kip Glazer.
“We had some concerns about being able to open other facilities such as restrooms, and we just didn’t know whether we can keep it as safe as we can,” said Glazer, who is finishing her first school year as principal.
Glazer said some families were also very concerned about the potential for virus spread if students were allowed to gather on campus, outside of their cars.
Next week, graduating Royals will be able to receive their diploma cover and take pictures while walking across the school's outdoor Greek Theatre stage, Glazer said. Those graduates doing so will be spread out over three days.
“These kids are so amazing,” she said of the school's departing seniors. “They’re so kind, and so loving. So I’m gonna miss them a lot.”
Robert Carroll, who received the school's 'Spirit Award' for best positivity and spirit, was selected to give a speech in the auditorium Wednesday.
“Pandemic or not, I’m still gonna graduate high school,” he said. “And that feeling is gonna be the same, regardless of if we’re in quarantine because of a virus… This is a really huge honor. I worked really hard to get up to this point.”
The modified celebration was bittersweet for some.
“It’s strange,” said graduate Denise Ricardo. “I expected to be on the [football] field, like normal graduation. But now I’m in the car, and the heat… I’m happy we get a graduation, at least. But I wish it could’ve been something more memorable or special.”
Dos Pueblos High School held a similar ceremony, though graduates there were allowed to briefly leave their cars to walk across a small stage.
“A lot more than I thought we were gonna be able to do,” Chargers graduate Katie Wilcox said. “Just something I’ve always pictured doing is walking across a stage… It’s just sort of like, good closure for the end of high school.”
The special day was in serious doubt not long ago, when schools closed and lockdowns began amid the pandemic.
Elizabeth Dominguez, an admin assistant at Dos Pueblos, praised the staff for helping set up a modified ceremony while adjusting to changing restrictions from public health officials. She also delivered a heartfelt message to the Class of 2020.
“You guys are resilient,” she said. “You’re the class of 2020. And just take the positives [from this situation] and just remember: You’re part of history. And this is a great place to be at right now. And let’s keep it going.”