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Santa Maria High School District Plans Return To Staggered Graduations

After holding simultaneous ceremonies for two years, superintendent announces intent to hold commencements at three different times

Students and families asked the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District board to reconsider holding simultaneous graduation ceremonies at the Pioneer Valley, Righetti and Santa Maria campuses. In June, each of the commencements will be two hours apart so families can attend more than one, if need be. Click to view larger
Students and families asked the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District board to reconsider holding simultaneous graduation ceremonies at the Pioneer Valley, Righetti and Santa Maria campuses. In June, each of the commencements will be two hours apart so families can attend more than one, if need be. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

After two years of holding simultaneous commencements, the Santa Maria Valley’s three comprehensive public high schools will again stagger graduation ceremonies for 2017.

Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Superintendent Mark Richardson told the Board of Education that plans are being made to hold the events at separate times on the same day.

“We had a good conversation with the kids in our Superintendent’s Council before Christmas break,” Richardson said during Tuesday night’s board meeting.

“We came up with some times for graduation for the spring.”

On June 8, students recommended, graduations should start at 9:30 a.m. for Righetti High School, 11:30 a.m. for Santa Maria High and 1:30 p.m. for Pioneer Valley High, Richardson said.

“So that will put a two-hour stagger between all the different graduations, which we know was a point of concern for people last year,” he said.

It also means all three ceremonies will occur during normal school operating hours, and the staff granted preliminary approval, he added.

“We feel pretty good about that,” Richardson told the board. “I told the kids I wanted to let you guys know that today because we need to notify Jostens so they can do the announcements and all that stuff. We need to get that information to them.

“I think we’re good to go with that.”

In 2015 and 2016, Pioneer Valley, Righetti and Santa Maria high schools held ceremonies at the same time.

Early last year, students, parents and staff lobbied to get the ceremonies held at separate times, saying it posed problems for families with relatives graduating from more than one of the schools.

Patricio Solorio welcomed the return of consecutive ceremonies. Last year, she told the board the simultaneous commencements posed a problem for her mom, who had grandchildren graduating from different high schools at the same time.

Students in Central Coast Future Leaders come from multiple campuses so graduation ceremonies at the same time mean they can’t attend to support friends at other schools, she added.

“We’re happy they saw the need to accommodate families to be able to go to multiple graduations, which many of our families need to to do,” Solorio said Friday.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District also holds staggered graduations for its three high schools, Dos Pueblos, San Marcos and Santa Barbara.

The Santa Maria high school district also issued a limited number of tickets for graduates to distribute to family and friends who wanted to attend the ceremony.

District leaders said the spike in violence in the community was one reason for the decision to hold simultaneous ceremonies and admission tickets.

“Last year, we obviously had a little different situation in the community,” Richardson said Tuesday. “I think we feel a little more comfortable where we are this year. We’re not as inclined to go with the ticket distribution like we did last year to add an element of control.

“We’re looking at putting that on hold right now.”

Students didn’t raise concerns about the ticketing system beyond ensuring people received information in advance of the ceremonies, Richardson noted.

“I think for right now we won’t go that route unless circumstances warrant doing that and we have other issues in the community as we go forward,” he said.

The Superintendent’s Council is still working on information related to graduation attire, a topic that will be brought back to a different meeting, Richardson said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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