(UTVS) On Friday the Minnesota Department of Education, Office of Higher Education, and Department of Health released new guidelines for schools that want to have commencement ceremonies.
Because of social distancing measures put in place as a result of COVID-19, the three departments recommend schools hold ceremonies that can be conducted virtually so attendees to not need to leave their homes.
Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker says:
“The health and safety of our students and their families will always be our top priority … This year’s graduation ceremonies will look different than they traditionally do, and I am confident our schools will find creative ways to recognize the incredible work and commitment of our graduating students. The class of 2020 persisted in their education through this unprecedented and uncertain time with a school experience that was difficult to navigate. I am proud of these students, I am inspired by these students, and I congratulate them on never giving up and reaching this major milestone.”
The guidelines released do not allow for gymnasium or football field gatherings but outlines what schools, colleges, or universities need to consider when planning for celebrating outside of the home, such as a car parade or parking lot ceremony.
Some of those guidelines for celebrating outside include:
- Each household should be in a separate car; carpooling does not comply with social distancing measures.
- People with COVID-19 symptoms should not attend, no matter what.
- Attendees should remain in their individual cars
- If attendees are in cars with the windows up for the entirety of the ceremony, cars may park immediately adjacent to one another
- If Attendees are in cars with windows down, cars should park 6 feet apart.
- Provide clear messaging that individuals may not walk to the ceremony or participate outside of vehicles.
- Create a traffic flow plan for how vehicles must enter and exit the event.
- Make the event brief.
- Do not share food at the event.
- There should not be passing of objects or physical contact between households
- Graduation caps should not be thrown in the air outside as this may encourage attendees to leave the vehicle
- Do not provide public or portable bathrooms; this creates a risk of transmission
- Limit the number of speakers to the smallest number possible and ensure they avoid close contact (e.g., within 6 feet) of others. Speakers should not congregate and should return to their vehicles following presentations
- Whenever possible, use individual microphones if multiple speakers will participate. If a microphone must be shared, consider cleaning between speakers or leaving it untouched on a stand.
- Partner with local public safety officials
A full list of guidelines can be found here.
In a press release Minnesota Department of Health Epidemiologist and COVID-19 School Liaison Susan Klammer says:
“These guidelines were made with public health protection in mind, and by adhering to them, we can celebrate our students while safely navigating this challenge together.”
Some schools have considered delaying graduation ceremonies until later in the summer in hopes to have a more traditional event.
“We absolutely recognize the desire to honor graduation as a right of passage in a more traditional way. But the Department of Health cannot offer a timeline for when public health guidance can be changed to accommodate large gatherings.”
St. Cloud State University rescheduled its spring semester 2020 commencement to August 14th.
The University also celebrated graduates with a virtual congratulations webpage.