Meetings, classes and even shopping, to much of an extent, have all moved into “virtual” realms with the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
With Minnesota topping 500 deaths and testing/illness and hospitalization still rising in early May, the Minnesota Department of Education is recommending school districts conduct graduation commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020 in much the same way.
MDE issued its statement Friday, May 8, stating large gatherings for any commencement ceremonies – in a gym or outside – should not be conducted this year in order to protect graduates, staff and families. Despite the appeal of a “fresh air” approach, MDE said the Minnesota Department of Health advises against the stadium ceremonies because of the close proximity and large numbers many schools would be looking at.
The report states:
“The safest way to observe graduation/commencement is for everyone to stay home. Indoor graduations and ceremonies held outside in stadiums and football fields are not permitted.
“A ceremony that can be conducted remotely (e.g., virtually) and ensures attendees do not need to leave their homes is our top recommendation. If you chose to honor graduates virtually, please keep equity in mind so all students and families can participate. Remember that COVID- 19 is a highly contagious virus that is fatal, especially the elderly and those with underlying conditions, and is still spreading throughout Minnesota. Staying home is a crucial way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to collectively protect our community.
“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.”
Mary Cathryn Ricker, head of MDE and a longtime educator, said it’s a blow to a senior class that has already suffered through some historically hard times.
Local districts – including STMA School District, Elk River Area schools and Monitcello School District – haven’t announced specific plans for graduation. Leaders were saying they were awaiting the word from MDH and MDE before making plans. Those plans should be announced in the next week or so.