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Schools prepare for return of in-person graduations
CSUS graduation
Graduation ceremonies will return this year at both Stanislaus State and Turlock Unified high school and middle school campuses after being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns (Journal file photo).

As the state plans to hopefully reopen many sectors of the economy in the coming weeks, students in Turlock can also look forward to the return of a traditional graduation ceremony at all levels of education. 

Turlock Unified School District and Stanislaus State have both announced dates of graduation ceremonies for students in the class of 2021, with the university also setting aside time for the class of 2020 to receive a proper send off as well. Last year, COVID put gatherings on pause and Stanislaus State opted to postpone its commencement ceremonies until a safer date, while TUSD provided virtual graduation ceremonies for its seniors. 

“We were happy we were able to provide a virtual graduation last year that resulted in every student having the opportunity to walk across a stage to the next phase of their life,” TUSD Chief Communication Coordinator Marie Russell said. “As we learn more about the mitigation of COVID, and knowing the sacrifices students and families have made over the past year, we are excited to be able to host in-person graduation ceremonies next month.”

Nine TUSD school sites will take part in outdoor ceremonies across the course of four days next month, May 25-28, which will adhere to guidelines for such events released by the California Department of Public Health in March.

The campuses with larger student populations — Pitman High School, Turlock High School, Dutcher Middle School and Turlock Junior High School — will have two graduation sessions to allow for social distancing at both Joe Debely Stadium and the Pitman Amphitheater. According to Russell, students will receive the same number of graduation tickets for family to attend as they would during a pre-pandemic ceremony. 

“Although modifications will be made to promote social distancing (including assigned seating), increased sanitation, mask wearing, and other measures, we are working hard to have our ceremonies resemble a pre-pandemic graduation as much as possible,” Russell said. 

Under CDPH guidelines for graduations, attendance must be limited to school staff, graduates, household members and family members. The guidance also suggests “handshaking and hugs” should not occur between people who aren’t members of the same household, and diplomas should either be mailed home beforehand or handed out during the ceremony in a way that reduces contact. 

Russell said that more information on how some ceremonies will be split up is set to be released by individual school sites as the dates approach. 

Stanislaus State students who graduated last year and who are preparing to graduate this year must register for their commencement ceremony and reserve seats for themselves and up to two same-household guests by May 4. Ceremonies for both classes will take place May 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28.

In a letter sent out to graduates earlier this month, Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn shared a list of guidelines for the ceremonies, which included a strong recommendation from the university that attendees be vaccinated. The perimeter of the university’s amphitheater will be blocked off with privacy screens so that no outside spectators can see into the event, and the ceremony will also be “no touch,” meaning graduates will stand at their seat to be recognized rather than walking the stage to receive their degree. 

“We understand that information has been changing fast and we are committed to doing all that we can to help ensure that we are providing the best and most timely information that we can to you,” Junn wrote. 

For full lists of commencement dates and times, visit or