New graduation ceremony guidance includes permission for drive-in celebrations
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Schools have received clearance to go ahead with drive-in type graduation ceremonies – with considerations for equity and safety.
The Oregon Department of Education released guidance Thursday morning on high school graduation ceremonies. The email to superintendents and principals said the class of 2020, as well as other grade levels, should be celebrated while still honoring Gov. Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” coronavirus pandemic order.
The guidance covers other traditional senior events, such as meals, assemblies and proms. Schools can hold in-person gatherings of no more than 25 people if proper health precautions are taken, including maintaining 6 feet between people.
The guidance names acceptable larger graduation approaches, such as a football field ceremony or a drive-in style ceremony in which families stay in their cars.
“Any recognition, celebration or ceremony must be accessible to every student and family,” the guidance notes.
School leaders have been asking whether car-based plans would run afoul of Brown’s school closure order. The executive order lists services schools must provide and closed school facilities through June 30 except for some essential activities.
ODE has been talking this week with the Oregon Health Authority, administrators and education stakeholders to hash out some workable guidelines. ODE’s previous guidances encouraged schools to find ways to celebrate seniors’ accomplishments.
“We know that thousands of seniors and their families are looking for creative ways to celebrate the graduation milestone,” said OSBA Legislative Services Director Lori Sattenspiel. “We appreciate how ODE and OHA have worked with partners to find solutions designed to allow for that while still minimizing risks.”
School districts have been submitting their plans to OHA for approval. The guidance gives districts confidence their drive-in plans will be approved.
“I am thrilled to see a drive-in ceremony as one of ODE's creative examples,” said Jennifer Guarcello, a Tillamook School District administrator, in an email. “Tillamook will be moving forward with our drive-in graduation plans ensuring that we follow recommended guidelines.”