High schools to postpone graduation | May 1, 2020 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 1, 2020

High schools to postpone graduation

District also considers using old campuses to aid with social distancing

by Elena Kadvany

Current Palo Alto and Gunn high school seniors won't walk across the graduation stage to receive their diplomas until December, the Palo Alto school district announced Monday.

This story contains 748 words.

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Staff Writer Elena Kadvany can be emailed at [email protected]


Posted by Andrew
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 28, 2020 at 9:40 am

Not sure why the new principals were introduced. It's a bit disrespectful of the current ones who are trying to lead their schools during this tumultuous times.

Posted by A parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2020 at 9:58 am

Elementary schools are cutting teachers and increasing class sizes right now due to anticipated budget issues (at least I know they have at Ohlone). Really unfortunate given that the next year is going to require more social distancing at school.

Posted by No Big Deal
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 28, 2020 at 10:05 am

A dumb idea as many local high school graduates may not be returning home for the Christmas holiday season.

Some may be off to college, others serving in the military or simply having relocated to other geographic regions.

While graduating high school may be the highlight of some people's lives, just mail the diploma and move on...there will always be high school reunion & those who never got to wear a cap & gown can commiserate at the gathering.

Besides, wearing the sartorial academic get-up is highly overated to begin with.

Posted by 4good
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 28, 2020 at 10:22 am

What was with all the sports analogies by the new Gunn principal? Does she always talk like that? The Green math teacher's presentation was excellent and he deserves credit for his thoughtful and honest remarks.

Posted by what if
a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2020 at 11:17 am

What is there's a second wave or social distancing will still prohibit large gatherings, one of those is very likely.

Wouldn't it be best to have a virtual now and make plans for December, but having something now gives some closure and celebration just in case.

Student voices matter, but they aren't thinking public health projections and the fact that by time many start college, high school will be far from their mind and interest.

Posted by Parent and Student
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 28, 2020 at 11:23 am

Josh Spira from Greene was the best part of the presentation, reassuring that we have teachers of his caliber.

Sadly the principal who sounds like a football coach needs to realize she has a broad audience and not all can relate to the overly used sports analogies.

Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2020 at 12:19 pm

Why not do both? A fun virtual graduation and then a formal ceremony later.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 28, 2020 at 12:35 pm


Superintendent Austin was very careful last night not to get into social equity, the sensible implementation of which is a topic on which this community is divided. He only slipped once, when he introduced the new Gunn principal as an "equity warrior". She was not selected based on either her "kinesthetic" mind or her well-hidden love of academic excellence. But let's give her a chance.

The district is doing the right thing by involving both present and future principals in current crisis management. The last thing we need right now is transition issues in the head offices.

Posted by suzie q
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Apr 28, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Why aren't we looking at what is happening in China and elsewhere as other places are reopening schools? Why don't we learn from other examples as to what might work? I saw a twitter feed in which Kinders created hats with balloons a top to give them the approximate distance to maintain from each other. There are solutions out there if you are willing to think beyond Palo Alto.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2020 at 1:04 pm

Stagger school openings. Secondary schools in August and elementary in October.

Posted by Amazing
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 28, 2020 at 1:13 pm

Wow, finally administration listened to the students. How about starting school at 9:00 so they get more sleep? Being sleep deprived compromises the immune system.

Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2020 at 1:56 pm

If the schools can't reopen by fall, that will mean the country's been on lockdown for months. The economy will tank, so people who can't work in the Bay Area will move to places where their savings last longer, and maybe the US will be get so chaotic that foreign-born workers seek refuge in their home countries.

Graduation may be the least of our problems.

Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 28, 2020 at 2:51 pm

Good for the kids putting the caboosh on virtual. What a dumb idea and I would think would make the kids feel even more depressed. Not sure December is a great idea for many reasons, one it will then have to held indoors. Why not do something for students later this summer, it's not like people have many vacation plans at this point. Do it outside at football stadium, just include the kids, parents and families can watch it streamed

Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 28, 2020 at 9:59 pm

@ Amazing

Newsflash Cupcake, the majority of the world starts work at sunrise, not at 9:00 A.M.

Posted by Amazing
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 28, 2020 at 10:55 pm

@Resident: You must be unaware of this: “ Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence -- meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.
Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.” Web Link

Teens are not adults, their bodies are different. Schools only start early for the administrators and staff, all the adults, not the teens. The School Board is trying to keep the teachers happy, as usual.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 28, 2020 at 11:30 pm

What did teens do before electricity? Invent candles?

Posted by DTNResident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2020 at 11:54 pm

Ha ha, a 6 month high school reunion!

We'll be in the thick of the second wave of virus, making the first wave look like a happy time, by comparison. So this will probably never happen, but I think it's a great idea.

If it doesnt actually happen, they should have their graduation ceremony at their 25th reunion. Can you imagine how much fun that would be?

Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2020 at 9:49 am

PAUSD has way bigger fish to fry than graduation.

Now they should ask the high school kids:
1. Do you want a schedule?
2. What in this crisis learning model is and is not working for you?
3. How can we do better?

Read Gates' blog. But here's my very nutshell take:

1. There's a miraculous drug (vaccine by July or a cure) and things are better in the fall
2. Immunity is holding and we develop herd immunity, but this isn't likely yet, as immunity seems less than 100% even if you have antibodies
3. Things are totally normal by spring 2022.

Let's plan for high Quality Online Learning for our high school students and any other level of students who can tolerate that much screen time.

Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2020 at 10:45 am

Interesting comments, thanks everyone.

We should, I think, be making constructive comments about the decisions our leaders are making, but support them as much as possible. It is very important that we all get on the "same page" as much as we can so we have a unified approach.

To our 2020 grads: congratulations! I hope you come to see this experience as being one of your life lessons. We all should think of it that way.

Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2020 at 10:49 am

There won't be a widely available mass-produced vaccine until the second half of 2021, optimistically. And there won't be mass gatherings of 2,000 students in December. What are they doing to do, stand ten feet apart wearing masks and surgical gloves?

It's irresponsible to hold out false hope to these kids. We should be offering them some other form of celebration and congratulation, and perhaps subsidizing a big reunion party for all who want to attend a couple of years from now.

Kids that age were saving the world by storming the beaches of Normandy a few generations ago. I'm sure they can handle the truth.

Posted by Move On
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2020 at 11:03 am

A lawn or window sign for all and call it done.

Posted by Person who attends high school...
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 29, 2020 at 11:38 am

Why are parents even commenting about how this is “no big deal” and for students to “move on” ... This is not your graduation and if you don’t like the idea, please don’t come! <3

Posted by Silver Lining
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2020 at 4:35 pm

I think it's okay for the district to offer the ceremony in the future if it will means something to the students. I do think many students will have moved on physically and psychologically by then, so I also hope the district will do something for the students that maybe has never been done before.

What about someone setting up a way for family, friends, and teachers to upload memories, photos, and yearbook wishes to individual seniors' accounts (students could have control of who does, and students' families could help), and maybe yearbook staff could help with design, local photographers could help with voluntary socially-distanced photos, and the district could spend the money it would have spent on graduation by helping to purchase individualized memory books for every senior?

My kid went through something very similar, that is, having to leave school because of factors beyond our control (particular evilness towards special needs at the time), having difficulty with setting up standardized testing because the district wouldn't take outside students even taxpayers who live here, seeing friends graduate and get those rites of passage/having to give those up. Losing the latter was surprisingly sad.

But the best way to overcome the sadness is not by trying to create something that is a shell of what you lost, like a zoom graduation, but rather, to find something new, creative and unequivocally better. Maybe not what I suggested, maybe something entirely different. I'm not even criticizing this plan. I'm just saying, what else can the community do for the students to help them celebrate in a way that might even be better?

Of course, in life, it's not always possible to do that, and sure, there is a case to be made that learning acceptance and that life isn't fair and adapting could be just as important -- and if we're going to put effort into making something better than it would have been, I'd rather it was these students' college decisions and extraordinary support for their first year of college amid all the uncertainties -- but I also wish people would put a little more effort into coming up with something new and special for these kids. Another for example, a graduation later might be one thing, but what about also a reunion party at that time?

Posted by resident
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 29, 2020 at 4:41 pm

Thank you Paly for listening to the tremendous feedback you received from your students. The class of 2020 needs and wants to come together in person at some point and June 3rd is not going to be an option. No, high school graduation in December will be a bit different, and not everyone will be able to attend. There are more than a million high school seniors who are having graduation interrputed and there is not one right way to move forward with this very important celebration. Let's be supportive of our kids and the teachers, and administrators who are going through a very challenging time to say the least.

- Proud mother of a Paly senior

Posted by GraceBrown
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2020 at 4:50 pm


Change up your staggered starts recommendation - the little ones first, and the older students "live on campus" next.

Older students may be caring for younger siblings and having our teens outside the home may well impact parents' ability to earn a living. Teens are showing incredible resilience and adaptability during this time.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 29, 2020 at 5:58 pm

Staff that kids know and love should speak at a simple online graduation. U bet there are some people that would love to be keynote speakers for thess kids . Also student speeches and music is not that difficult.

December will still not be safe and bringing people to the campus who have been on campuses around the world is not safe for the younger actual paly students.

A 500 line up of seniors that have to pick up cap and gowns because staff can’t mail them is also unsafe and quite sad.

Posted by Silver lining
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2020 at 7:03 pm

Usually students go away for college and most probably don't realize that the importance of the event will fade as they realize how much better their social lives are in college than in the constrained walls of high school.

That said, this isn't normal times, and these kids are going through something unprecedented together. More of them than usually will be at home doing their college online in the fall. Even if the pandemic is back, it's likely that we'll understand how the infection is passed (and not) better by then, so a gathering is more possible. If this was their decision, I applaud the district for supporting it. Let's as a community support them to turn this season into something even better that never would have come about if not for the pandemic. Sorry, but online graduation is only going to feel hollow.

Although -- does anyone watch Hardly Strictly Bluegrass? The streaming sound and video are FABULOUS. Moon Alice does those. We've started planning parties at home instead of going up there, because of how high quality the streaming is. Is it conceivable to borrow/rent equipment to allow a high-quality streamed party? (There are a lot of out-of-work musicians...) A Zoom party would suck -- sorry Zoom, you're great for a lot of things, but a grad party, no.

Posted by claudius
a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2020 at 3:25 pm

If graduation is this important, then we have really made insignificant the potential for the rest of students' lives. Parents and community members who would expose people to a disease in order to have a ceremony are irresponsible and egocentric.

Posted by Who asked you?
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 5, 2020 at 9:13 pm

This is really a decision for the students and school. Random non-stakeholders who don’t like it, la dee da, go on with your business. Claudius- were you involved in this decision somehow? Where on earth did you get the idea that any ceremony will happen if it can’t be done safely? Sheesh. Everyone knows there are no guarantees and they’ll follow whatever safety requirements are in place at that time I’m sure. Let them do their best and just offer a little encouragement and sympathy and grace.

Posted by Anonymouse
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 6, 2020 at 12:20 pm

Hey. Sorry but everyone us a stakeholder.

This admin allowed gunn band kids to go to New York against the only “essential travel “ notification from the county—. Also Disneyland.
Also they only shut down after county made them.

The person in charge ig graduation is having All the seniors drive and pick up robes an capa instead of just sending them. This seems like a bad idea that could be avoided.

Also consider the idea of a dec graduation. It is not safe for so many traveling students to be on campus after flights .

I have a senior and they know what is important. Rituals are nice but not essential. Trips with trophies are nice but risking the safety of students and community was very wrong.

Posted by Member
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 6, 2020 at 12:54 pm

If you were a paly senior would you want to pick up a cap and gown for a ceremony that is not happening? This seems sad and weird they can not mail caps abd gowns. Also a safety issue.

Posted by gunn band kid
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2020 at 5:27 pm


"This admin allowed gunn band kids to go to New York against the only “essential travel “ notification from the county"

Hey, that's not true. We left Friday March 6th, and the last county guidance to schools was issued just one day earlier, March 5th. It didn't include an 'essential travel notification' - and if it did, the trip wouldn't have happened.

"Trips with trophies are nice but risking the safety of students and community was very wrong."

The adults who put the trip together busted their behind at every step of the way to keep us safe.
If you want to complain about 'reckless leadership', go right ahead, but you're badmouthing the wrong things.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 6, 2020 at 9:41 pm

I am finding out that I like zero risk in my old age!

Gunn student, glad you had a nice trip. Hope you have many more .

Posted by resident
a resident of Professorville
on May 6, 2020 at 10:01 pm

Good for you "Gunn Band Kid". I'm glad you had your successful trip and for correcting the earlier negative post.

Teachers and administrators have an incredibly difficult few months to get through and I am grateful for all that they are doing for my own high school student, including being creative and positive about alternative graduation options.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2020 at 2:19 am


Please look at May 5th in New York and also sc county. I would not take risk and increase exposure for a trip.
I would not have hundreds if seniors pick up cap and gowns in person when there is mail.

Why take risks if you do not have to? What is worth risking others health?

Posted by Another Gunnite
a resident of Barron Park
on May 7, 2020 at 12:49 pm

@Band Kid
From one Gunnite to another
Your teachers were irresponsible, self serving, and acting like SOME Gunn teachers ALWAYS DO:
a. The rules dont apply to me
B.What I do is very "special" and thus my poop does not stink
C.I can't do the common sense thing and "stay home". That would be boring and not give me accolades.Announcements MUST have my name in it otherwise my Gunn teacher ego would be crushed

Posted by Mercury
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 7, 2020 at 7:40 pm

The Merc is reporting that drive by graduations are forbidden. Web Link

Posted by FranciscoHDarrells
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 24, 2020 at 7:11 am

This is a hot topic because deaf children require special attention. Such experimental projects help deaf and dumb children to get a good education. I know an interesting resource that interacts with such students. This is a good initiative that needs to be publicized.

Posted by Cate D
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 24, 2020 at 8:36 am

Health goes first. Now with all the online educational websites Web Link you can study without a problem. So when it's a necessity - we should be responsible.

Posted by Claudia_Martin
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 7, 2020 at 3:56 am

Very soon, I will also be in the final stage of college. And it's very cool, I've been waiting for this for a long time. But now I need to write a nursing paper and I understand that it will be very difficult because I am loaded with other tasks. So I want to go to the nursing paper writing service that my friends recommended. They said that the service Web Link is very cool. There are real professionals who do everything very well and professionally. I really want them to help me and I got even closer to graduation. I am very much waiting for this.

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