Friday, the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education released guidelines on how schools and families should prepare for graduation ceremonies.
With schools likely shuttered for students through the end of the school year, many seniors are losing out on the ceremonies that send them off. With physical distancing protocols still in place, large gatherings are not allowed in the state of Minnesota.
On Monday, Governor Tim Walz talked about the importance of gathering for graduations, and graduation parties. “I think right now, small family gatherings or something, I can imagine families having two sets of cousins, and wanting to do something in their backyard," said the Governor. "We gotta figure out how to do that, because quite honestly, folks who really get this, and are really caring, are going to do some of that. Because it’s that important. And I certainly don’t want to put any person or any business, in a position where something that important they cannot do.”
"We talk about retail and that dial going up. That other dial, social, I don't want to forget that", added the Governor.
These guidelines hope to clarify what is possible for schools, and how they can safely honor their students with still preventing the spread of COVID-19 in their communities.
This guidance was developed in consultation with school leaders and the Minnesota Department of Health, and it outlines different options for school districts, charter schools, and colleges and universities to consider while they contemplate how to best honor their graduates. The state says in it's release, "Safety and well-being of Minnesota’s students and their families, as well as school staff, is our number one priority.
"We know how much students in the class of 2020 have sacrificed this year, and how disappointing it is not to participate in the milestones or traditions they had imagined. These guidelines were made with public health protection in mind, and adhering to them is how we will both celebrate our students and move safely through this challenge together.
"The safest way to observe graduation/commencement is for everyone to stay home. Indoor graduations and ceremonies held outside in stadiums and footballs fields are not permitted."
The state in recommending ceremonies be conducted remotely (virtually) so that attendees do not need to leave their homes.
Guidance from the state also reiterates that outdoors ceremonies do not meet their standars for physical distancing.
"We know that many schools have considered ceremonies outside in stadiums or football fields. In-person social gatherings with people from multiple households, even in situations where ample space between attendees could be accommodated, does not comply with social distancing practices and introduces a great deal of contact unpredictability and increases the potential for disease transmission. These gatherings are not considered safe at any size and will not be permitted. Likewise, indoor graduations/commencement ceremonies will also not be permitted."
As for delaying ceremonies, the state is again discouraging the idea.
"Some schools have indicated they are considering delaying graduation ceremonies until later in the summer to allow for a more traditional event. While we recognize the desire to honor this rite-of-passage in the more traditional way, we cannot offer a timeline for when public health guidance will be changed to accommodate large gatherings."
Below are the state's parameters for hosting a graduation/commencement ceremony or other celebration (e.g., car parade, parking lot ceremony) outside the home, which they do note, "increases the level of predictability and decreased risk of disease transmission."