School district readies live-stream graduation plans

Virtual ceremonies scheduled for June 5

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By Juan Reyes

Morgan Hill Unified School District announced this week that the Class of 2020 is heading in the virtual direction for its high school graduation ceremonies.

The school district sent out a letter to families on May 11 saying the ceremonies for Live Oak and Ann Sobrato high schools will be streamed over the internet. MHUSD staff said several components of the ceremonies, scheduled for June 5, include pre-recorded speeches and graduation videos for both high schools. 

Jennavieve Roush, a senior at Live Oak High, said she’s not happy with the decision.

“I will not do a virtual graduation, I just think that’s dumb,” she said. “We have gone through 13 years of school together to just say goodbye, and probably never see each other again, over video.”

The MHUSD letter mentioned that “it may not be in real time but considering the circumstances and constraints we have to factor we are all truly doing the best we can and making the most out of a less than ideal situation.”

The letter mentioned that the recent extension of the shelter-in-place order from Santa Clara County Public Health left many school districts in a quandary over what to do about high school graduation. The ongoing shelter-in-place order along with social distancing protocols makes traditional gatherings no longer a possibility.

“We have heard and understand that many seniors are not satisfied with these plans, and feel robbed of walking across the stage in front of their teachers, principals, friends and loved ones. Please know that this has not been easy for us and that these plans have not been made lightly,” reads the letter from MHUSD.

Jennavieve’s mom, Josette Hatcher, said she’s not a big fan of virtual graduations. She believes the students worked 12 years to have this moment and they’re being robbed of it.

“I think they should have postponed it until they can give them an appropriate and proper graduation,” Hatcher said.

MHUSD said the administration and a committee spent hours consulting with Santa Clara County officials and the Morgan Hill Police Department brainstorming the best scenario. There were plenty of great ideas, they said, but they have had to remove any events requiring non-essential travel from consideration. 

According to new guidance from Santa Clara County Public Health, car parades and large gatherings are forbidden despite people staying confined to their vehicles.

The school district said the Executive Order could relax by the June graduation dates but it is prudent for them to plan now based on what they know. “Despite this disappointment, the high schools within Morgan Hill Unified School District will forge ahead with plans to address the ceremony portion of the graduation celebration.”

Jennavieve said she believes they’re not getting treated fairly by just getting a virtual graduation. She also mentioned the school district is not putting in enough effort to provide a good ceremony.

“Some of my classmates have come to terms with the idea that they’re not having a graduation and they just want their diplomas,” she said. “But the majority of us want a real, actual graduation to finally say goodbye.”

Both Jennavieve and her mom are onboard with postponing the graduation until it’s safe to conduct it. 

Hatcher said she reached out to Superintendent Steve Betando with an idea of having the graduation at a drive-in theater. They would have families show up in decorated cars, park six feet apart, play the graduation song and cheer when pictures of graduates start showing up on the screen. 

“That would be a cool way to send them out,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher said MHUSD didn’t do enough to help students get a proper ceremony and it’s because they didn’t involve parents in any meetings, keeping them in the dark about the process. She thinks the school district took the easy route of resorting to a virtual graduation due to Covid-19. 

“I felt so powerless and I know all the other parents do too,” Hatcher said. “I feel like our kids are being robbed of this moment in time.” 

The Live Oak High School Athletic Boosters and the Ann Sobrato-Murphy Band Association are selling lawn signs for the families to display and honor the graduates at home. The Morgan Hill Rotary will be posting senior photos along the walking path on Butterfield Boulevard. The Community and Cultural Center Marquee will display and scroll all the graduates’ names. 

There is also an “Adopt a Senior” Facebook page where community members can make seniors feel special by providing them words of encouragement, special treats and gifts.

Hatcher said she’s been trying to come up with alternatives to celebrate her daughter’s graduation, including a huge banner with her senior portrait on it that hangs in the front of their house.

“That’s all you see when you drive by my house, is her banner with her picture on it because how else are we going to celebrate these seniors,” Hatcher said. “Our resources and things we can do are limited, we can’t even have a parade anymore. [MHUSD] didn’t include us in what the outcome would be.”