West Ranch holds in-person graduation for the Class of 2021 as COVID-19 cases continue to decline


   Graduation is a significant milestone. It signifies a transition to the next phase of one’s life. Each year’s ceremony is an important event where seniors wear their caps and gowns and receive their diplomas.

   Over the past year, in-person events have looked very different due to the coronavirus, and the prospect of holding in-person graduations for the Class of 2021 has been uncertain. However, coronavirus cases have recently been on the decline in California and the United States. According to the County of Los Angeles Public Health, Los Angeles has a 0.50 percent seven-day daily average COVID positivity rate. As a result, West Ranch is holding an in-person graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021 on June 2. Still, this year’s ceremony will have some significant differences from past graduations.

   “There will be differences from the setup you would normally see at COC. In order to accommodate for social distancing, the seating arrangement on the field will look very different.  The plan calls for the stage to be in the middle of the field, almost like a concert-in-the-round setting. Students will be seated in alphabetic pods around the stage,” explained West Ranch Principal Mr. Crawford.

   Additionally, to ensure a safe and successful graduation, West Ranch had to plan the ceremony to accommodate for social distancing guidelines. 

   “The four sections that will be around the stage will be done by alphabet, and students will be separated 6 feet apart,” said Assistant Principal Mrs. Hinze, who is coordinating the ceremony. “Their walk should be very similar to getting up to the stage. The sections of the grandstands behind each of those sections will be coordinated with the alphabet that’s on the floor. So, parents will have a better view of their students.” Mrs. Hinze also explained that there will be a small lottery to give more tickets to the ceremony to certain students. 

   Because not everyone can attend graduation, Mr. Crawford said that “the ceremony will be live-streamed for those family and friends that cannot attend.”

   Although this year’s graduation will be significantly different due to the pandemic, the ceremony will have some similarities to previous years. For example, students will be able to deliver graduation speeches. 

   Mr. Crawford explained, “We will [proceed] into the stadium as we have in the past; however, it will be different as we will be using two entrances. When the time comes to award diplomas, each senior will have a moment to come up to the stage as in the past. We are trying to make this ceremony as special as possible for the seniors and their families. While we will have to abide by certain rules, we want to make this a special night for our students and the community.” 

   The process of planning the ceremony was very complicated, due to the changes that need to be made because of the coronavirus. Mrs. Hinze explained some of the process of planning graduation: “The district took the lead on [planning the ceremony] because they worked directly with [the Department of Public Health] on getting graduation approved at COC. They also worked directly with COC to make sure their guidelines are met. Initially, the first [step] was that the district had to get it approved by DPH, and they had to submit plans for what the graduation would look like. DPH approved it, and they started meeting with school sites.”

   She added, “We had four graduation meetings that included district personnel, all the way from our superintendent down to our COVID coordinator. At school sites, we had Principals and APs involved… COC’s been a part of these meetings, our security company’s been a part of these meetings, as well as the entertainment company that we will use the screens from, for people to have a better view of the stages, as we’ve had at the last several graduations we hosted. Now, we are in more of the details that will happen on our campus to run the graduation.”

   With all the planning that has taken place, West Ranch wants to make sure that students and parents can feel safe while enjoying this special ceremony and celebrating the Class of 2021. 

   On a final note, Mr. Crawford expressed, “This class has had to deal with so much adversity.  I admire how they have weathered the storm and are still planning great things for the next chapter of their lives. I know the trials they have endured this year will only make them stronger and will allow them to persevere in the future. It is so strange to have this year have gone by and there are so many of this class I have not seen in person in so long. That being said, this class will always hold a special place in my heart. I wish them all the best!”

   Wildcats, be sure to watch the live streamed graduation, which will be held at 7 p.m. on June 2 at COC! 

   The graduation ceremony will be live streamed on this link: https://bit.ly/westranchhs2021