The COVID-19 pandemic has led Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, to hold a virtual graduation for Berkeley High School, or BHS, seniors.
The school’s graduation will be broadcast June 12 at 5:30 p.m. and is a way to celebrate the class of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s shelter-in-place orders and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that prevent in-person events. It will be the second of two events meant to commemorate this year’s graduating class.
According to the CDC, K-12 schools should pursue virtual events and limit the number of participants at in-person events if it is not possible to hold them online. The CDC added that the “lowest risk” K-12 activities include virtual events, while full-sized, in-person events that have participants who share space and materials for long periods of time constitute “highest risk” activities.
According to an email from BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott, the first of the two graduation ceremony events was a “drive-through” materials pickup held May 15. She added that graduating seniors gathered their caps, gowns, posters and diploma covers in a “fun and celebratory” atmosphere and will receive their diplomas over the summer.
“It was genuinely touching to look through portfolio photos of the many, many seniors that came to Berkeley High School last week to pick up their cap and gown,” said BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens at a BUSD meeting Wednesday. “It was wonderful to see so many of our smiling seniors.”
Stephens also extended his gratitude to the graduating class of 2020 during the meeting.
Despite students not being able to attend graduation in person, McDermott added that the students will still be able to don their graduation gowns, caps and tassels for a “personalized” virtual graduation experience that will be uploaded to YouTube.
According to McDermott, outgoing Berkeley High School Principal Erin Schweng said, while the online ceremony is not what staff and students were expecting, she hopes the graduating seniors know how proud she and BHS staff are of the class of 2020.
Judy Appel, president of the BUSD school board, added that recognizing graduating seniors, regardless of whether the ceremony is in person or virtual, is important because graduation represents a major milestone in students’ lives.
“We all should keep in mind we as a district are doing the best we can to make this passage as valuable and special as possible,” Appel said at the meeting. “This has an emotional impact on our students.”