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          La Reina to welcome back students August 11th

          Commencement date up in the air | May 21, 2020

          By Dawn Megli

          La Reina High School and Middle School announced this week that because the size of its campus and enrollment allow for adequate social distancing, it will resume in-person classes in August, though online instruction will still be available for students with health concerns.

          But while students will return to campus next semester, the Class of 2020, who received their caps and gowns this week, will still have to celebrate graduation at arm’s length.

          The in-person commencement ceremony for the private girls’ academy, which was scheduled for May 22, has been postponed until public health orders allow for larger gatherings, but school administrators are still using the day to celebrate this year’s 45 graduates.

          On Friday, the Catholic school on Janss Road will hold a drive-thru celebration. Staffers will be positioned around the parking lot to cheer on the graduates as they cruise the perimeter of the campus.

          The graduating seniors will be able to have individual photos taken in front of the administration building, where the ceremony usually takes place, holding the folder that would contain their diploma. La Reina Principal Maggie Marschner said the school will wait to distribute the diplomas until an in-person ceremony can be held.

          “It’s nothing like a traditional ceremony. We’re not giving them their diplomas yet. It’s a chance to wave at each other and shout our congratulations and recognize what should have been a pretty momentous day for us,” she said.

          Marschner said parents “really, really want” a traditional ceremony on campus, but they will have to wait until restrictions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 are loosened.

          For the past five decades, seniors have graduated in a formal ceremony that is steeped in tradition and practiced ahead of time. The girls march in two lines down the front steps of the school wearing beige high heels and holding yellow roses.

          “Parents are accepting the situation as it is and they are happy with the acknowledgment, but they’re very hopeful we can do something in the future. And we are, too,” Marschner said.

          Emily Beutner, dean of student life, has come up with a variety of ways to commemorate this year’s graduates. This week, each senior received a cap and gown along with a tassel, medals and school pennant.

          They were given an extra graduation cap with a decorating kit so they can personalize their graduation gear, which the school normally doesn’t allow. They received Disney-themed cookies, since their grad night at Disneyland was canceled, as well as a little box of mementos to recognize Senior Week. They were also given handwritten notes from school administrators and the Sisters of Notre Dame, who live at the convent adjoining the campus.

          “The sisters reached out to me because they’re doing adopt-a-senior and asked for a list of girls to write handwritten notes to,” Beutner said.

          On May 22, the school will play a tribute video to honor the seniors.

          While 45 girls are graduating this year, only 44 will be able to attend the drive-thru ceremony. One student, who flew home to China to celebrate the Chinese New Year, has been unable to return to school because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, Marschner said.

          The school will recognize all of its students at the end of this school year. Seniors have received lawn signs to commemorate their graduation. Marschner said a La Reina family donated money to provide lawn signs to each student in grades six through 11, as well.

          “They were very kind,” she said. “The families are so giving and kind about helping out with the girls. They’re very invested.”

          She said school staff came up with a hashtag to honor the strength of the Class of 2020 in light of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding their graduation.

          “They’re our #ResilientRegents,” she said.

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