East Bay Mom Wants to See Graduation Ceremony for Daughter's Class

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An East Bay mom who said her daughter’s school district shot down her pitch to have a graduation ceremony for the senior class is holding out hope that a ceremony could still happen given that schools could reopen as early as late July.

Angela Mitchell of Alameda still wants to see her youngest daughter, Au’Janay, walk across the stage and receive her diploma. After all, Au’Janay is the only one of her four children to graduate from high school.

“From young, she said, ‘I’m going to walk across the stage, mom. You’re going to see me,” Mitchell said.

The coronavirus pandemic has squashed that promise. No prom. No graduation ceremony. Just a class of 2020 lawn sign displaying her daughter’s name.

“It was just so personal for me,” Mitchell said.

After brainstorming, Mitchell reached out to the Alameda Unified School District with an idea. She proposed a graduation ceremony in an open space like the high school football field where the seniors would stay 6 feet apart and the parents would watch from the bleachers.

Her proposal was denied.

On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his reopening plan for the state, telling parents and students that school might be back in session as early as late July.

"Maybe they can do it in August," Mitchell said. "Maybe they can do it when winter break comes and the kids are in college."

AUSD Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi said his hands are tied.

"The logistics combined with the spirit of the order just does not leave us feeling like we could be confident that we could do something safely," he said.

On Wednesday, the district released the following statement:

The county shelter-in-place order that was originally put into place in mid-March and was extended again today has made it very clear that gatherings are not allowed. While we deeply empathize with our families’ desires to celebrate and commemorate the accomplishments of the Class of 2020, we do not see a way to safely gather and supervise crowds of people in one place.  AUSD staff are collaborating with teachers, principals, and students to come up with ways to acknowledge our seniors while keeping students, families, and the community at large safe during this public health crisis. While we know those celebrations will be a physical departure from AUSD traditions, we hope that they will capture the emotions and memories that such traditions, at heart,  are meant to preserve.

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