Newport-Mesa Unified says in-person graduations and promotions being planned for June

Newport-Mesa Unified graduates held a grassroots commencement march in June 2020, after in-person ceremonies were canceled.
Newport-Mesa Unified graduates held a June 17, 2020 grassroots commencement march after in-person ceremonies were canceled. On Friday, district officials announced in-person graduations and promotions would resume.
(File Photo)

Newport-Mesa Unified School District officials announced Friday in-person commencement ceremonies and promotions — which went virtual last year to the dismay of students and parents alike — will be held in June for promotees and the graduating Class of 2021.

Supt. Russell Lee-Sung made the commitment in a late-afternoon message sent out to the school community and posted on the district’s website, sharing not only the news the events would take place but the date, time and location of each ceremony.

“Our schools have begun discussions and planning efforts for end-of-year graduations and promotions, which will be in-person now that Orange County is in the orange [reopening] tier,” the announcement read, emphasizing certain modifications would be placed on festivities.

For example, graduates will be allowed to invite only two guests, unless the county transitions beforehand to a less restrictive yellow tier, in which case students will be allowed to increase their guest lists to four people.

Jordan Galante watched Costa Mesa High's Class of 2020 graduation ceremony via TV broadcast with her family at her home.
Jordan Galante watched Costa Mesa High’s Class of 2020 graduation ceremony at home with her family during the pandemic. Officials said Friday, in-person events would resume for the Class of 2021.
(File Photo)

Mask-wearing and social distancing will be required, and all events will be livestreamed for those who cannot or do not wish to attend in person.

Newport Harbor High School senior Jack Nataupsky said Friday he’d been hearing the buzz around campus in the past couple of weeks that in-person ceremonies may be allowed to return.

That seemed like an impossibility a few months ago, when Orange County experienced a surge of coronavirus infections and saw record high COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

“Then, the vaccine started rolling out and I began to get a bit more confident we might have a graduation,” said Nataupsky, who sees graduation ceremonies as the official end of high school. “I know a few people who were saddened not to have a graduation or promotion last year. I’m glad to be able to have one.”

Corona del Mar senior Troy Tsubota said he, too, was glad to be able to walk with the Class of 2021.

“I’m very happy we can have an in-person graduation,” he said Friday. “It will provide closure for our class after a particularly unusual year.”

Students protest Newport-Mesa Unified School District's decision to not hold in-person graduation ceremonies in 2020.
In a May 26, 2020 rally, students protest Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s decision to not hold in-person graduation ceremonies that June. This year, in-person events may resume, officials said Friday.
(File Photo)

Students and their families were upset last year, when Newport-Mesa Unified officials announced they would be broadcasting pre-recorded graduation ceremonies for virtual audiences. Some even protested outside the district’s office in Costa Mesa.

Multiple grassroots alternative ceremonies sprung up, offering graduates the chance to participate in a parade-style celebration from the safety of their vehicles. A multi-school graduation march was held June 19, during which hundreds convened for a march from Newport Elementary School to Balboa Pier in Newport Beach.

“I didn’t think I was ever going to get to throw my cap up in the air,” then-Costa Mesa High School senior John Paul Bottazzi told the Daily Pilot at the event. “That was pretty important to me.”

The schedule for in-person and virtual events provided by the district is:

High schools

  • Back Bay/Monte Vista High, June 10 at 10 a.m. at Hyatt Regency Amphitheater
  • Cloud Campus High, June 9 at 6 p.m. (virtual)
  • Corona del Mar High, June 10 at 1:30 p.m. at Davidson Field
  • Costa Mesa High, June 10 at 1:30 p.m. at Mustangs Field
  • Early College High, June 3 at 5:30 p.m. at Jim Scott Stadium
  • Estancia High, June 10 at 3 p.m. at Jim Scott Stadium
  • Newport Harbor High, June 10 at 6 p.m. at Davidson Field
  • Seamless Transition Education Program (STEP), June 3 at 5:30 p.m. (virtual)

Middle schools

  • Corona del Mar Middle, June 9 at 1 p.m. at Davidson Field
  • Costa Mesa Middle, June 9 at 2:30 p.m. at Mustangs Field
  • Cloud Campus Middle, June 9 at 6 p.m. (virtual)
  • Ensign Intermediate, June 9 at 4:30 p.m. at Davidson Field
  • TeWinkle Middle, June 9 at 6 p.m. at Jim Scott Stadium

Lee-Sung said Friday additional information on commencement and promotion ceremonies, in addition to other end-of-year activities and senior events, would be shared by school-site administrators as details became available.

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