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State leaders announce new guidelines for graduation ceremonies

The state recommends virtual commencement ceremonies to ensure that graduates and their families do not have to leave their homes.

ROSEVILLE, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Education, Office of Higher Education, and Minnesota Department of Health have released new guidance for schools on conducting graduation ceremonies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The three departments are recommending virtual commencement ceremonies where possible, ensuring that graduates and their families do not have to leave their homes.

Indoor graduations and large outdoor gatherings in places like stadiums or football fields are not allowed under the guidance.

"We know that many schools have considered ceremonies outside in stadiums or football fields," the guidance statement reads. "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."

For schools considering other methods of outdoor celebration, like a car parade or parking lot ceremony, the departments said schools should consider whether it will be safe for all attendees.

"Consider whether having an event encourages people in high-risk groups (particularly older adults and people with underlying health conditions) or ill individuals to come out rather than stay at home. People may come out because of their desire to celebrate this significant milestone and not wanting to be "left out,'" the guidance reads.

If schools do decide to conduct a parking lot or car parade type ceremony, the guidance says each household should be in separate cars, and people showing COVID-19 symptoms should not attend.

Any school that chooses to distribute materials like diplomas are instructed to do so contactless, with staff wearing face coverings.

For any type of alternative graduation ceremony, the state says schools should consider any accommodations that need to be made to ensure equal participation for all students.

"The health and safety of our students and their families will always be our top priority," said Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker in a statement. "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."

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