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Grad Nite at Disneyland canceled due to coronavirus

A band plays at Disneyland on June 30, 2017. The theme park won't host Grad Nite 2020 because it closed due to coronavirus concerns.
A band plays at Disneyland on June 30, 2017. The theme park won’t host Grad Nite 2020 because it closed due to coronavirus concerns.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

It was mid-March when students got word that they would be sent home and begin distance learning due to concerns over the coronavirus.

High school seniors were unaware then they would not return to the classroom. Spring student-athletes did not know that they had played their last game of the season.

The class of 2020 has had to endure unimaginable disappointment as the coronavirus pandemic called into question the future of, and at the very least, altered the end-of-year events.

Among the most celebrated of these are prom, graduation and grad night.

The latest domino to fall for many high school seniors last week was the cancellation of Grad Nite at Disney’s California Adventure.

“While there is still much uncertainty with respect to the impacts of the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, the safety and well-being of our guests and cast members remain the top priority of the Disneyland Resort,” a statement posted on the Disneyyouth.com website said. “In light of recommendations by school and government officials to limit gatherings for the remainder of the academic year, we are making the difficult decision to cancel Disneyland Resort Grad Nite 2020.”

Locally, Costa Mesa, Edison, Huntington Beach, Ocean View and Pacifica Christian Orange County have been confirmed as high schools that intended to have their grad night celebration at the popular theme park.

“Because Grad Nite events require a substantial amount of planning, coordination and travel, we felt that this was the right decision to make at this time,” the statement continued. “We know how disappointing this news will be to the many students who were planning to join us this year.”

Ocean View senior Miguel Flores, who is committed to Hope International University for soccer, said he never cared much about attending school dances, but there were two senior events he was very much looking forward to partaking in.

Those two were graduation and grad night, which he had been eager to attend to since hearing of his sister, Adriana’s, experience last year.

“You have that excitement, that emotional climax of graduation,” said Flores, who also competed in cross-country and track and field for the Seahawks. “There’s tears, there’s cheers, there’s a lot of emotion that goes into graduation, and then right after, you get to spend basically the next day, and then that following night, all the way into the morning, with friends and just having fun. It’s kind of this last goodbye to them.”

Word of mouth travels fast. Pacifica Christian senior Brooklyn Motske, who plans to play soccer and golf for Vanguard University next year, said that she had also heard plenty of positive feedback from previous graduates that had attended Grad Nite at Disneyland.

“I remember talking to some seniors that graduated last year, … and they always talked about how fun Disneyland was,” Motske said. “It’s hard because those memories, we can’t get back.”

As the commissioner of pep and spirit for Edison’s ASB, if Cole Koffler was not holding court on the football field or on the track, he would be doing so in the student section.

Though the letdowns have been numerous, seniors have not yet become numb to the disappointing nature of the coronavirus’ impact on their lives. Koffler also used the word “bummer” to describe the cancellation of grad night.

“It’s the right choice that has to be made during these times to keep us safe,” Koffler said. “We understand, but it’s a bummer that we [have] to miss out on all of these senior activities that everyone usually gets from years past and all the years to come. We’re going to be the class that either didn’t have that or had a modified version of it.”

Koffler realizes that he is living in an extraordinary time, and the seniors of today will have a unique story to tell.

“My mom and dad were telling me this, ‘No one’s going to forget this,’” Koffler said. “‘No one’s going to forget that the class of 2020 didn’t get this, this, this and this because there was a worldwide pandemic.’”

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