Local high schools are altering their graduation plans after the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department approved the addition of in-person elements for ceremonies. 

Earlier in May, the Santa Maria Joint-Union High School District announced that Pioneer Valley, Santa Maria, Righetti and Delta high schools would hold drive-by ceremonies, with graduating students required to stay in their cars while diploma covers were passed to them. 

Following the county's announcement Wednesday, each graduate now will be allowed to exit their car and walk onstage, according to district spokesman Kenny Klein.

"At all four schools, [with] roughly 2,000 graduates, the graduates will step out, go to a stage, get their picture taken by a professional photographer, they get their diploma cover and then get back in the car," Klein said. 

Only graduates will be allowed to exit their cars, and the district still will require only one graduate per vehicle, Klein said. 

Plans for traffic control and potential lane closures still are being discussed by the school district and will be announced in the near future, according to Klein.  

Santa Maria High

A virtual ceremony for Santa Maria High School seniors will begin at 11 a.m. June 5, with a link shared via the school's website, followed by a drive-by diploma distribution on campus at 1 p.m. 

Righetti High

On June 5, Righetti High School will share a virtual ceremony via YouTube at 9:30 a.m., followed by a drive-by diploma distribution in the student parking lot at 11 a.m.

Pioneer Valley High

Pioneer Valley will hold a drive-by ceremony in the student parking lot at 9 a.m. on June 5, with a virtual ceremony shared on the school's website at 5 p.m. the day before. 

Delta High

Delta's drive-by ceremony will take place on campus from 5 to 8 p.m on June 4, with a video commencement on the school's website scheduled for 2 p.m.

St. Joseph High

St. Joseph High School is planning a drive-in ceremony for its students on June 13 in an amphitheater at El Patrón Ranch, with two virtual screens projecting a virtual ceremony.

"We know that a lot could change between now and June 13. I think right now the important thing to do for any school leader is to stay flexible, and remind parents to be flexible," Principal Erinn Dougherty said. "We want to make it as special as possible for our beloved students while also following the law."

Orcutt Academy

Orcutt Academy will hold a drive-in ceremony at 8:15 p.m. on June 5 on the school's field, which will be set up as a drive-in theater with an audio soundtrack broadcast via car radio.

Kermit McKenzie Intermediate

Kermit McKenzie Intermediate School in the Guadalupe Union School District will celebrating promoted eighth graders in a parade from 5 to 7 p.m. June 2 in the school's parking lot, with a virtual ceremony planned for the same day. 

Laura Place covers city government for the Santa Maria Times.


Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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