High school and college seniors throughout Santa Monica are set to graduate this month and enter a new stage of life. How they complete their educational journeys in the coming weeks will differ depending on the school site, though.

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District leaders confirmed this week that Santa Monica High School students will return to campus at 5:30 p.m. on June 9 and June 10 for an in-person ceremony that will celebrate graduates in the Samohi’s Greek Theater for the first time since 2019. Olympic High School scholars also intend to gather for an in-person celebration at 5:30 p.m. on June 8.

“It will be a fairly normal affair but Samohi will have two graduations because there’s still a need to social distance. So, it will be similar to our past events but all of the protocols necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be in place this year,” SMMUSD spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said this week when she mentioned how fifth-grade promotions in the district have transitioned to a new format as well.

Superintendent Ben Drati commended local educators, including Samohi Principal Antonio Shelton, for going from distance learning a short time ago to hosting in-person events this week.

“Our seniors have worked so hard this year and have navigated challenges with poise and maturity. They have missed many traditional senior privileges and activities due to the pandemic, but thankfully we are able to finish off the year on a high note,” Shelton said. “They are so deserving of a real graduation and we are pleased to provide students and families with this much-deserved recognition and a memory of a lifetime.”

While SMMUSD schools throughout the city will enjoy live ceremonies, Santa Monica College, which hasn’t returned to campus full-time just yet, is set to hold a live-streamed graduation ceremony ahead of a first-of-its-kind event.

Dean of Community & Academic Relations Kiersten Elliott said SMC’s graduation events are the highlight of the year not only for students but also for the faculty, staff and families who annually pack into Corsair Stadium for the occasion.

Last year, the school was forced to tone back the festivities a bit because of the pandemic. So, it held an online ceremony featuring videos that were submitted by students. This year, students can expect a similar event when they gather online at 4 p.m. Friday, June 25, to hear remarks from California State Treasurer Fiona Ma and school faculty.

“2020 was our 90th anniversary for the college and we wanted to do something different for the big occasion. Having to do the commencement virtually was not the kind of different we were going for, but it went really, really well and people enjoyed it,” Elliott said. “So, this will be our second time doing the commencement ceremony virtually and since we kind of feel confident that we know what’s happening with that, we added a new twist this year because we really want students to have something physically tangible that they can celebrate. And after some back and forth, we came up with a Diploma Drive-Thru experience.”

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 19 at the SMC Bundy Campus according to Elliot, who said, “Students who are graduating have already been invited to RSVP for a time slot and we are so excited because it’s basically like a huge commencement parade.”

There will be an opportunity for students to get out of their cars and go get their photos taken with a diploma cover. And, of course, faculty and staff will be there to celebrate and applaud the scholars’ accomplishments.

Brennon@smdp.com