Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent Don Austin vows, if COVID circumstances allow, to do what he can to give the Class of 2021 an in-person graduation.

Due to the pandemic, the Class of 2021 has been forced to complete their last year of high school online. As a result of distance learning, the seniors are not able to participate in many events such as Spirit Week and both proms.

“It just makes me sick to my stomach that you guys are missing, essentially half your junior year, an entire senior year,” Austin said. “If we can do anything for you, we are going to do it.”


“It is a top, top priority to me to give you guys [Class of ’21] an experience.”

— Don Austin, PAUSD superintendent


According to Austin, the only reason the Class of 2021 would not be given some kind of graduation ceremony would be due to Santa Clara County health guidelines that prohibit any gatherings.

“Anything short of that [guidelines prohibiting gatherings], we will have a ceremony,” Austin said. “It is a top, top priority to me to give you guys[Class of ’21] an experience.”

Although the graduation may not resemble ceremonies held in the past, Austin hopes for the best.

“Our intention is to have something for you that is nice and meaningful,” Austin said.

In April, former Palo Alto High School Principal Adam Paulson announced that graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020 would be held in December after students voiced opposition to a virtual June ceremony.

Currently, no public gatherings other than explicitly stated exceptions are allowed, meaning the postponed graduation will not be able to occur.

Austin is unsure if the Paly graduates are still interested in a graduation ceremony and is waiting for the high school principals to report back.

“I knew in the moment, there was a strong desire to come back in December and have that ceremony,” Austin said. “But my gut told me that strong desire would fade in time.”

Marina Brogley (Class of ’20) no longer feels the need to have a December graduation.

“At this point, I don’t care about having a graduation that much because it’s so late and won’t be special,” Brogley said.

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