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By Collin Breaux

While the Class of 2020 did not get to enjoy the usual group graduation ceremony, the story will be markedly different for the Class of 2021.

Traditional graduation ceremonies will happen at high schools in South Orange County this year, but still with some pandemic-era twists.

San Clemente High School, Dana Hills High School, and San Juan Hills High School will host in-person ceremonies on June 3, with two sessions at each school to accommodate social distancing. Attendance will be limited to four guests per graduate.

The three schools hosted drive-through ceremonies last year in which students individually arrived in a vehicle to receive their diplomas. This year, they will return to walking across the stage.

San Clemente High Principal Chris Carter said the school wanted to offer an event that’s as normal as possible for graduating seniors.

“This class had to sacrifice so much,” Carter said.

Dana Hills High Principal Brad Baker said his school has come a long way in being able to offer a face-to-face ceremony.

“We’re extremely thrilled to have this opportunity to honor our seniors,” Baker said.

The event will be a special chance to celebrate student accomplishments and resilience, Baker added.

Students in school during the COVID-19 pandemic have gone from online-only learning to a hybrid curriculum incorporating some on-campus classes to returning to a nearly full-week schedule. Throughout these changes, students have dealt with mental-health issues, Baker said.

“As a community, we’re appreciative and thrilled to celebrate the Class of 2021,” Baker said.

The Dana Hills High graduation will be livestreamed.

San Juan Hills Principal Manoj Mahindrakar said it feels good to go back to an in-person ceremony, and there is a palpable sense of appreciation as the school has held other end-of-the-year events.

“It’s all of us celebrating the K-12 journey,” Mahindrakar said.

The two ceremonies will be at 1:45 and 4:15 p.m. for San Clemente High, and 1 and 4 p.m. for Dana Hills High and San Juan Hills High. State health guidelines with regard to wearing masks will be in place.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at

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