Aaliyah Lucero worries her senior year at Santa Fe High School could end just like the Class of 2020’s — with a drive-thru graduation ceremony that lacked any of the pomp and circumstance she and her fellow seniors desire.
“Every kid looks forward to graduation when they’re in school — everyone,” Lucero said.
Lucero and seniors across the city saw a ray of hope that a more conventional graduation ceremony is in their future when Santa Fe Public Schools announced graduation dates Friday.
Seniors at Santa Fe High, Capital and Early College Opportunities high schools, as well as Mandela International Magnet School and Desert Sage Academy, are scheduled to walk the line between May 26-28, the district announced. (Desert Sage Academy is the former Academy at Larrogoite and moved into the old Capshaw Middle School building over the summer.)
Desert Sage Academy, Mandela International Magnet and Early College Opportunities High School are scheduled to hold separate ceremonies May 26 on Desert Sage Academy’s football field. Capital’s ceremony is slated for May 27 on its football field, and Santa Fe High is scheduled hold graduation May 28 at Ivan Head Stadium.
Veronica García, Santa Fe Public Schools’ superintendent, said she was cautiously optimistic graduation ceremonies will look similar to what other senior classes experienced prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the state almost a year ago.
However, she added the graduation plans are subject to change, depending on the level of spread of the novel coronavirus and ceremony guidelines from the state Public Education and Health departments.
“We did have an in-person graduation last year, but it was just very, very, very different,” García said. “I think the more we can approach normalcy is very important [for traditional graduation ceremonies to happen]. Graduation is such a rite of passage, and a momentous occasion in these young adults’ lives.”
Public Education Department spokeswoman Judy Robinson said the agency is working with district and school leaders to develop guidelines for graduation ceremonies that are consistent with the current public health order.
“That guidance will be communicated to schools/districts at the appropriate time,” Robinson said.
Associate Superintendent Larry Chavez said he has worked with the schools to develop a variety of graduation plans in anticipation of state guidance and COVID-19 case spread in Santa Fe County.
“I don’t think we can rule out anything,” Chavez said. “We need to have multiple contingency plans, and I don’t think we will be able to release what those plans would be until it’s closer to the graduation dates.”
Another issue the district faces is García’s goodwill offer to the Class of 2020 for a traditional ceremony for those students when the health order made it possible. She said the district has not discussed how schools would honor last year’s graduates because they do not know how many of them will want it.
Seth Arroyos, a 2020 Capital graduate, said he would return for such an event, because he feels cheated out of the chance to experience what other senior classes have enjoyed. Last year’s drive-thru ceremony, he added, left a bitter taste.
“I wanted to experience going on the field and walking the stage,” Arroyos said. “And we ended up going in our cars and driving around in a circle. It sucked because we didn’t get to take any pictures with our friends.”
Lucero said her senior year has been trying because students have mostly learned from home since the beginning of the academic year. She added her experience has led her to appreciate all of those special moments she took for granted, like playing on the basketball team, attending the prom and hanging out with friends.
“The way I look at life now and how everything has changed is taking my time and enjoying life — not so much rushing into the future or looking at the past,” Lucero said. “I focus more on now and living in the moment.”