By Heather Janssen

VACAVILLE (CBS13) — The pandemic has led to many missed milestones for students and their families, but there’s new hope graduation may go on.

The California Department of Public Health says districts can start making plans for possible in-person graduation ceremonies, as numbers trend in the right direction. The catch is that the ceremonies will likely be outdoors, with limits on who can attend.

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“I’m missing out on my senior year,” said Samantha Brown, a Vacaville high school senior. Thanks to COVID, she’s lost nearly a year of activities.

“When it started, I really thought it would be two weeks or a month,” Brown said.

Starting Monday, she’s finally returning to campus and headed back to sports. Her family said things seem to be looking up.

“We’re just packing the whole year into five weeks,” said her mom, Lael Brown.

Now they’re hoping to cap it off with in-person graduation after Lael’s other daughter celebrated virtually last year. Her senior photo a part of a school graduation PowerPoint slideshow.

“You feel kind of robbed, but you know, you put it perspective,” Lael said.

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The CDPH said districts may start the planning process for in-person ceremonies, working closely with county health departments. For now, districts can look to the outdoor live event guidance which differs by county. The better a county’s tier, the more people allowed.

“Depending on the size of the graduating class, how many students there are, and the venue,” said Raj Rai, a spokesperson for the San Juan Unified School District.

Rai said they’re excited to plan something normal for their seniors and hope to make them feel special. But at San Juan Unified, planning has only just begun. Vacaville Unified is also in the planning stage and presented their ideas to the school board Thursday night.

But the possibility of anything in-person, alone, is positive news for the Browns.

“Both my children have worked really hard and they deserve recognition for what they did,” Lael said.

The state’s outdoor event guidance also says only in-state visitors may be allowed, so districts will still utilize livestream capability for others. CDPH plans on releasing more specific ceremony guidance in the coming weeks.

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Still, seniors are eager to turn the tassel and toss the cap on one of the most difficult years yet.

Heather Janssen