VUSD drives forward with graduation plan

Visalia Unified moves forward with alternative graduation ceremonies including drive-up diplomas and virtual graduation on YouTube

VISALIA – Tulare County’s largest school district will move ahead with plans to hold two separate, alternative graduation ceremonies instead of the traditional mass gatherings held at stadiums.

“Unfortunately, we have determined that we will not be able to hold our traditional commencement and promotion ceremonies as COVID-19 tallies continue to climb in our county and state,” Visalia Unified Superintendent Tamara Ravalin said in a May 13 message to parents. “This is a heartbreaking decision for all of us, but we must make this decision now so that our schools can focus on making the alternative ceremonies special.”

The two separate events will include a virtual ceremony and an in-person alternative ceremony. At the in-person ceremony, students and their families will pull their car up to a stage on their high school campus. Students will walk across the stage to a podium where they will receive a packet with their diploma, honor cords, and any medals they have earned. Students may choose to wear their caps and gowns and the graduation awards they may receive. Graduates will have an opportunity to walk across a stage, and a professional photographer will take their photograph. The professional photographer will have a variety of purchase options available.

Separately, a virtual graduation for each high school and middle schools will be held on the district’s YouTube Channel. The video will include pre-recorded speeches by valedictorians, class presidents and other student notables as well as messages from the principal, superintendent and school board members. Each student’s photo will have equal air time in the internet video while highlighting their achievements, scholarship awards, cords and medals. Any presentations, such as a senior class gift, will be worked into the presentation.

The virtual and in-person alternative ceremonies will take place the day of the regularly scheduled graduation ceremony for each high school. The dates are as follows: Visalia Charter Independent Study on June 1; Golden West High School on June 2; Sequoia High School and El Diamante High School on June 3; VTEC and Redwood High School on June 4; and Mt. Whitney High School on June 5.

High school principals will send a message to graduating seniors with detailed information.

Ravalin said the district has also developed a virtual ceremony and a drive-through promotion celebration for students completing eighth grade. Similar to the high school event, middle school students will receive a promotion certificate along with any medals, certificates and honors they earned. Middle school and K-8 elementary school principals will send a message to eighth graders with detailed information.

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