Graduates from East Bakersfield High, and six other local schools, walked across the stage during a cool and calm Wednesday night to receive their diplomas and cap off an unprecedented year in American academics.
The ceremony took place on site at Permenter Field, and was a study in the safety guidelines set by The Kern High School district (KHSD) to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission among students, staff, and guests.
The guidelines included permitting only two guests per graduate, no exceptions.
Graduates and guests were seated together on the field. Chairs on the field were positioned so that a minimum of 8 feet distance is between family groups and maintained during the ceremony.
Social distance practices were also adhered to, graduates and guests must maintain a minimum of 6 feet of physical distance between themselves and others and face coverings were required.
"Definitely not what I expected," said Senior Kamryn Jacinto. "I'm just trying to make the best of it."
The KHSD Board of Trustees unanimously voted to allow graduations back in May, but not everyone at the county level is in agreement.
"Our advice is to do everything possible to try to keep large gatherings down," said Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine on Monday. "Either postpone them or cancel them at this point, or do it virtually as we do our Zoom meetings now. There's other ways to do it."
Despite this statement, which also emphasized Governor Newsom's stay-at-home order, commencements went ahead as scheduled.
"This isn't the way we imagined our graduation, but we can move past it," said Class of 2020 speaker Minuet Bautista to the crowd. "There have been harder obstacles we have plowed through."
Second-year East High Spanish teacher Ronald Leiva has seen a world of difference between the two end-of-year rituals.
"Last year, the ceremony was indoors at Rabobank Arena," he said. "We also don't have all our graduates this year due to safety concerns, along with graduation being pushed back a month. Many students have moved on with their lives, or have moved out of the area completely."
"I thought there would be more people," said Daniel Pimental, who watched grandson Christian Flores graduate through the northside fence on College Avenue. Despite not having a ticket, he noted the positives.
"It's a lot faster than usual. In and out," he observed. "It's nice they still had the ceremony, because they were reconsidering. It's my daughter's birthday today and she was kind of depressed when they were talking about cancelling it, so this is perfect."
Pimental lives nearby and walked to the commencement. He was by himself but said Christian's cousins, among other family, were at home watching the live stream.
"We're all going to get together this weekend and celebrate," he smiled.
Arvin High was the last, and only, school to hold ceremonies on Thursday night, and it took place at Frank Barle Stadium at 8:00 PM.
Livestream for all graduations can be found on the KHSD website, as well on their YouTube channel.