Tokay High School seniors preparing to graduate Thursday evening said the last year was a combination of good, bad, and weird.

While some enjoyed not having to be on campus for a good part of the 2020-21 school year, they said it was hard having to sit in front a computer all day and not be able to speak with teachers and classmates in the traditional way that they had been able to before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

But, they were happy they were going to be able to receive their diplomas from school staff and Lodi Unified School District administrators in front of friends and family at Tokay High this week.

“It feels great to be here,” Jacob Banning said. “I’m really surprised we’re here right now. I thought (school) was going to get shut down the week it opened back up. I’m surprised we made it this far.”

The district closed all campuses last March under the guidance of federal, state and county health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19, and reopened them this past April.

Banning said the past year of not being on campus was going to be one to remember.

“It was something, that’s for sure,” he said. “It felt nice to be at home all the time, but it also felt sad getting robbed of our senior year. We got to go back at the end though. Well, everyone else did, I was online still.”

Jasmine Loeza didn’t think she and classmates would be participating in an in-person ceremony either, but said any event would have several restrictions in place.

Because San Joaquin County is in the orange tier of the California Department of Public Health’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy this week, attendance at graduations was limited to 67% capacity.

In addition, only California residents were allowed to attend, and reservations and assigned seating were required. A senior’s block of seat reservations was limited to one household, as well.

“Last year was fun, but I was kind of happy we went online,” Loeza said. “Mostly because of what was happening. Everyone was in a panic. I don’t think if we kept going, a lot of people would have shown up either way.”

She and Banning both said they would miss interacting with everyone on a day-to-day basis, adding no one likes to admit it after high school, but people grow apart.

“This year was hard being online, not seeing each other or being around each other, but I mean we got something in the end,” she said. “That’s better that being (the class of) 2020, who got robbed of their graduation.”

Last year’s graduating seniors were not able to gather together and walk across the stage for graduation, as pandemic guidelines restricted events to virtual streams and drive-through diploma presentations.

For Christopher Sugg, he said he will miss all his friends after leaving Tokay High, but was happy to be seeing them one last time on campus.

“It was a weird change,” he said of his senior year. “I feel like I really didn’t learn as much as I should have.”

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