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TUSD's plan for in-person graduations include face masks, limited guests

TUSD's plan for in-person graduations include face masks, limited guests

From the May's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Cases rise, judge rules that state can keep nursing home data from public series

In the time of COVID-19, the ceremonies will be far from normal

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Graduation day “holds enormous importance,” TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said. “We don’t want to let this day pass without doing something very special for our students.”

Tucson’s largest school district is forging ahead with plans for in-person graduation ceremonies this summer, but in the time of COVID-19, they will be anything but normal.

Although TUSD seniors will don traditional caps and gowns, they will have to accessorize with masks — a requirement that also applies to guests and staff. Commencement speakers will be allowed to lower their masks only while addressing the crowd.

“That’s something that our graduates are going to have to understand and all of our family members,” Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said.

As far as family members are concerned, Tucson Unified will limit the number of guests each graduate can have. That number has yet to be decided but will likely be two or three.

People most vulnerable to the coronavirus — those over 60 and those with pre-existing conditions — as well as those who are sick are strongly encouraged to stay home, with an option to watch live online.

Guests who can attend are asked not to bring traditional gifts of balloons, flowers or stuffed animals, the district said.

“We want as few items as possible touching multiple people,” Trujillo said. “So we’re really going to be asking the graduates just come in your cap and gown; just have your phone. That will probably be it.”

Locations for the ceremonies, scheduled for June 25 and 26, are still being finalized, the district said Tuesday.

“We’re still exploring some options in terms of where the graduations can take place in the most CDC-compliant way to ensure the health and safety of all of our students, and then also to make sure that we’re adhering to city and state guidelines for pandemic precautions,” Trujillo said.

With 3,200 seniors and a need to maintain social distancing of 6 to 8 feet, it’s possible that larger schools such as Tucson High, Cholla, Pueblo, University High and Rincon may have to split their student body into separate events, the district said.

In meetings with student groups, Trujillo tells them “it’s not perfect, but it is 80% of the graduation experience.”

“They will get to put on a cap and gown — that’s what they’ve asked for,” he says. “They will get to walk across the stage. They will get to get their diploma in person. They will get to have, although on a limited basis, loved ones in attendance. So I think that what we’re putting together under the restrictions of COVID-19 and this pandemic is the limit to what we can do in a safe way.”

TUSD is working with the Pima County Health Department to make sure they are taking all the necessary precautions. As the situation with the coronavirus changes, so could the plans for the in-person ceremonies.

More details are expected at the May 27 governing board meeting.

Contact reporter Danyelle Khmara at or

573-4223. On Twitter:


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