LOS LUNAS—Instead of being able to walk across the stage, wearing their caps and gowns to receive their long-awaited high school diplomas, students at all three of Los Lunas’ high schools — Los Lunas High School, Valencia High School and Century High School — will be having a virtual graduation on Friday, May 22.
The district conducted a survey with the parents of graduating seniors to find out what most people would prefer doing.
Acting Superintendent Walter Gibson said parents were asked for their input regarding the graduation options and decided on the virtual option based on the results.
“We surveyed families and I would say about half of them responded. The largest number wanted to do the virtual graduation,” Gibson said. “There were others that wanted to wait and see if we could have a graduation at The Pit (in Albuquerque), where we were originally scheduled to have it, or even at the schools, but there was too much uncertainty.”
In a letter sent out to parents from Gibson on April 23, the acting superintendent stated the option of holding a virtual graduation received 44 percent of the votes over the option of waiting until social distancing regulations were relaxed to have the ceremony at Dreamstyle Arena, which receive 41 percent of the votes. Fifteen percent of those who responded cast their votes for an in-person graduation at a later date at their individual schools.
When New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the closure of all schools in the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision on how they would conduct graduation ceremonies was left up to the local school districts.
Once the stay-at-home order lifts, Gibson said each school will hold its own reception to celebrate the graduating class.
“We do want kids to be able to say goodbye to each other and their teachers and principals,” Gibson said.
The virtual graduations will consist of up to five segments for each school to have speakers, usually the valedictorian, salutatorian, class president and the principal.
“Each student gets essentially a five-second blurb, which is their picture and a personalized message that they’re going to write,” Gibson said.
The school district contracted with a company connected to Herff Jones, who provides the diplomas and yearbooks for the high schools to provide the virtual graduation service.
Gibson said a letter went out to parents and students from the three high school principals to explain what the plan for graduation is and why it was chosen.
“We knew these kids need to get on with their lives, and so many have said they’re going off to college or going to the military or got a job,” the acting superintendent said. “Thinking about doing this in August, even to the point of getting a place to do it, was just way too many variables that we couldn’t control,”
While this isn’t the ideal situation for many students, Gibson said the district had to make a decision based on the limited information they had at the time.
“This is all new and disappointing because graduation is really the highlight of every school’s school year — it really is a community event,” Gibson said. “We truly understand that this is not what any of us wanted to do, but we don’t see an end to social distancing. We don’t see an end to whatever quarantining we have to do. We did the best we could for this time.”
LLHS Principal Darian Jaramillo said the ceremonies will be available to view through YouTube.
“Each of the high schools are recording a ceremony,” Jaramillo said. “Everybody will receive a link via YouTube Premiere and that’s how it can be viewed. I believe at some point, we will be able to put that link on to the school district’s website so people can view it.”
VHS’s ceremony will be held at 1 p.m., CHS’s ceremony will be at 3 p.m., and LLHS’s ceremony will be at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 22.