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Fresno Unified Graduations Move From Stage to TV Screens



Image conveying virtual high school graduation being shown on local television
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Fresno Unified’s Class of 2020 graduates won’t get to cross a stage to collect their diplomas, but district and school officials will make sure that their graduation is memorable — even though it will be virtual.

Meanwhile, summer school is expanding to include all students who want to keep learning or need to catch up on course work. But, like the waning weeks of the current semester, it also will be available only on a virtual platform.

Portrait of Bob Nelson

Superintendent Bob Nelson

Superintendent Bob Nelson announced Monday that the district is scrapping all live graduation ceremonies and in-person summer school this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But seniors won’t go away empty-handed, he and board president Keshia Thomas said in the news videoconference with local news media.

Each school, with the assistance of the district and media partners, is producing a senior celebration video that will feature graduating seniors, traditions that are specific to each school, the “ceremonial turning of the tassel,” and other highlights.

Senior Celebrations To Hit Airwaves

The videos will be broadcast on Fresno-area TV stations and the district’s website, Nelson said.

“We apologize, and we feel so badly that we will not be able to hold a physical graduation ceremony in June as we had originally planned,” he said. “We’re devastated with you, and we recognize this is hard for everybody to hear. … It’s not how any of us wanted to end your academic careers.”

In addition to a downloadable file of their high school’s senior celebration, each member of the Class of 2020 will get a “swag bag” that will include a gift from the district and other surprises.

And when the day comes when health officials say that it’s safe to gather again, Fresno Unified will schedule an actual graduation ceremony for the seniors, Nelson said.

“Senior check-outs,” when graduates are expected to return textbooks, digital devices, musical instruments, uniforms, and other items, will be scheduled for the week of May 19 for Design Science Middle College High School students and the week of May 26 for all other seniors.

More Summer School Seats To Open

Nelson also announced that the district will expand summer school so more students can participate.

That includes enrolling about 700 students in the African American Academic Acceleration program — twice as many as last year — he said.

Students who need to retake failed courses to earn a passing grade and credit for the course will be able to do so in virtual summer school. In addition, extended learning will be provided for special education students, and enhanced learning opportunities for all students, Nelson said.

Students can to use the laptops or tablets already issued to them for the summer study program.

Thomas Schedules Facebook Live Sessions

Portrait of Edison High region trustee Keshia Thomas

Board president Keshia Thomas

Nelson said it’s not yet certain whether the district needs to employ more staff to accommodate more summer school registrations.

Information about enrollment in summer classes will come in early May, Thomas said.

She said she is helping to host several weekly Facebook Live sessions to provide information and answer questions from parents and others.

The first will be this Friday and will be in English, and subsequent sessions will be in Spanish and Hmong.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email