Graduation event update: The pre-recorded graduation ceremony video will be streamed on YouTube, Facebook and on Comcast channels 26 and 27 on June 5 at 7 p.m.

The drive through graduation will take place June 5 at Healdsburg High School at 8:30 a.m.

According to the Healdsburg High School Facebook page, the following guidelines must be followed:

"One car per family (No buses, limos, caravans, etc.)

• All people in the car must be seat belted & wearing a mask

• Cars will enter the school on Monte Vista. DO NOT enter on Prince Street.

• When you arrive, there will be a check-in person and you will be prompted where to go at that time

• As you make your way to the front of the school, there will be a stop for the graduate to exit the vehicle. ONLY the graduate may exit the vehicle

• You will be directed where to park and may watch your graduate walk across the stage from you car

• You may take photos from inside your car

• Graduation Celebration is providing a professional photographer for the event. Details to come

• A stage will be set-up for the graduate to walk across and pick up their diploma and gift from the HHS staff

• Graduates will then return to their car and exit the school on Powell Avenue

Please arrive on Monte Vista at your start time to line up:

8:30 am - Affronti - Cano

9:00 am - Carr - Galvan

9:30 am - Garcia - Hipolito

10:00 am - Ibarra - Lumetta

10:30 am - Luna - Onate

11:00 am - Ortiz - Saavedra

11:30 am - Saldana - Von Kleist

12:00 pm - Webb - Zaragoza."

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on schools — it’s shuttering campuses, halting traditional graduation ceremonies and changing the way students participate in summer school.

Healdsburg Unified School District (HUSD) Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel addressed these topics at the most recent school board meeting on May 20, and while there’s still no answer as to when schools may reopen, he did share the district’s plans for an online graduation celebration set for June 5 and what credit recovery summer school will look like for students this year and which programs are canceled.

Pivoting to online

“We are rapidly coming to the end of the year and we have found some ‘not as good as graduation ways’ but still ‘fun ways’ to celebrate our graduating seniors. If you were to drive by Rec Park today, you’d see a giant banner out there with a photo of every senior,” Vanden Heuvel said. “We hope tomorrow or by the weekend, the city is going to be hanging up the individual banners on the light poles downtown with photos of our graduates.”

Families of 2020 graduates have also been putting out lawn signs with the phrase, “Proud family of an HHS graduate.”

“We are trying to find ways to recognize them and capture that special feeling,” he said. “It’s hard, they’ve had a lot that has been taken away from them in this crisis. There is going to be this closure to 13 years that they don’t get, so we are trying to provide as much as possible.”

In lieu of an in-person graduation, Healdsburg High School is planning on releasing two videos on graduation night, one will be an online graduation ceremony with music and student speakers, and another where students reflect on their time in high school.

Vanden Heuvel said they are also working on a drive-thru celebration, where one by one, families can drive in and get their diplomas. He emphasized that people cannot come to watch and they cannot have any sort of event that has an audience beyond 50 people.  

 School board Trustee Judy Velasquez said she loved seeing the banner at Recreation Park and suggested that it be something the school does every year, regardless of the pandemic, as a way to celebrate graduates.

“I think it is something we should do every year to honor our graduates,” she said.


Summer learning changes

Since the district’s credit recovery program is typically facilitated online, the summer school program won’t change too much, however there are a few adjustments.

“We are going to press forward with providing a high school credit recovery program,” said Erin Fender, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction.

There will be two three-week sessions as usual, taught by several HUSD teachers and paraprofessionals instead of overseen by just one or two teachers, according to Fender. Students can earn up to two semesters of credit in the same or different subject areas if they attend both three-week sessions.

One hundred students have been called and invited to summer school and 80 have signed up so far. Students will be expected to show up online between 9 and 9:20 a.m. for an online roll call and instruction will go until about 11 a.m. with a mix of quiet work and teacher instruction time.

While credit recovery can continue, other summer learning programs, like science, teachnology, engineering and math (STEM) academy and the Summer Bridge program for first to eighth graders, have been canceled.

The district is still hoping to run the transitional kindergarten (TK) to kindergarten bridge program, which would take place before the new school year resumes. The Adalante program in collaboration with the Santa Rosa Junior College for high school migrant ed students may run online and would have 20 students.

Plans are also underway for a virtual camp with the Bishop’s Ranch Recreation, Education, Adventure and Discovery camp for 20 to 30 low-income students. Fender said if the shelter in place is lifted and if it’s allowable, they may be able to invite small family groups to the ranch for outdoor recreation time.


When will school reopen?  

During his coronavirus distance learning update, Vanden Heuvel said there is unfortunately no new information about when schools could potentially reopen.

“The truth of the matter is, we don’t know,” Vanden Heuvel said.

In a letter to families he said they don’t know when they could reopen, but that they’re running through various scenarios every day of when and how they could so while following safe procedures.

“There’s going to be three possibilities, we’ll be back in distance learning, or we’ll have some sort of staggered schedule with less kids in class on each day, or we’ll be normal. Those are pretty much our only three options,” he said, noting they do not want to endanger the lives of students or community members and they want to make sure everything is done on a medical basis in terms of reopening.

 “The reality is that we’re probably not going to know until July,” he said.

The district is sending a survey out to its teachers and staff to ask how distance learning has gone, what has worked and what hasn’t worked.

Trustee Velasquez said in addition to surveying staff, the district should find out what parents need.

“It is not school. I don’t care how many worksheets you provide, it is not school,” Velasquez said, also expressing concern about the amount of screen time kids are getting.

“One of my grandkids is in TK and Ms. Anderson does lots and lots of wonderful things for the kids and there’s songs for them to sing and there’s books for them to hear and Zoom sessions with her (the teacher) and in order for Walker to do the amount of materials that are available for him, he spends two or three hours a day on the computer and that’s not OK. It’s simply not OK with me,” she said.

She said she believes the district should  take a look at how they deliver instruction if they have to resume distance learning in the fall.

Trustee Mike Potmesil agreed and said it would be a good idea to implement some sort of structure for at-home learning, so students have to learn, have a snack and get recreation time outside, similar to a normal school day. He said communication to parents is also key.

Vanden Heuvel said they plan to survey parents too. He added that he recognizes that it’s been challenging, and offered kudos to staff and teachers for working above and beyond during this time. 

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