Restrictions lifted for graduation ceremonies

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CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) – When it comes to graduations, the state has given schools the go-ahead to ease attendance limits and relax COVID-19 guidelines. Many local school districts are adapting with ceremonies only a week away.

“It’s great to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and our staff,” said Don Stevens, Assistant Superintendent of Watervliet City School District.

In-person graduations are here to stay. Schools can now squeeze as many people as they want in outdoor graduation ceremonies — as long as they keep up with masks and social distance.

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted many of New York state’s COVID health and safety restrictions after the state reported 70% of New York adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

One hundred chairs are all set up and 6 feet apart for the Watervliet High School seniors. The ceremony will be taking place next Friday, June 25. Stevens says drive-by graduations are now a thing of the past.

“We gave our students the choice if they wanted to participate as a whole class for graduation or not. Overwhelmingly, they said yes and we said we could make it happen,” said he.

School districts will have the option of maintaining some or all of the COVID-19 limits and requirements. This included lifting limits on social gatherings and most capacity restrictions, and ending requirements to conduct health screenings, contact tracing and stricter cleaning and disinfection procedures.

Masks are still required for unvaccinated individuals.

“Originally we were expecting that we would have to check vaccination status or negative COVID test before the event. Right now I think we are looking at the honor system,” said Stevens. 

“The new guidelines can allow relatives to come. With social distancing requirements being lacked we can certainly have more of a traditional graduation,” said Jason Chevrier, Schodack Central School District Superintendent.

Chevrier says Maple Hill High School will be having an outdoor ceremony with their 62 graduates on Friday, June 25. He says with guidelines changing so quickly they were able to pivot easily. However, he says it hasn’t been easy on bigger school districts.

“Between ordering chairs, stage equipment, parking, and planning, all those things might be some challenges that large districts are facing,” said Chevrier.

After a year of hybrid learning, the class of 2021 will get their time to shine. They will be able to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas.

“A lot of the students have taken the journey since kindergarten together. I think it will be a special day,” said Chevrier.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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