On March 26, the state Department of Public Health released guidance for graduation ceremonies during the pandemic: No handshakes, no hugging! Wear masks and stay six feet apart.
This guidance is intended to provide recommendations to help students, teachers, families, and school administrators celebrate the momentous milestone of graduation while also preventing the spread of COVID-19.
School administrators and commencement organizers must identify and monitor the County Risk Level the school is operating in and make required adjustments to their commencement ceremony just as families must adjust their private celebrations.
Across all Tiers: All commencement ceremonies must follow these requirements:
- All attendees, including school staff, performers, students and families are counted toward any occupancy capacity limit.
- If multiple ceremonies are planned for a single day, schools must allow for at least two hours between ceremonies to prevent mixing.
- Limit attendee groups to a household unit. People from the same household do not need to be six feet apart.
- Audience seating must be fixed or marked, with readily identifiable signs to indicate by section, row, and seat. Marked seats should clearly define space for individuals with appropriate space per person (no blanket reservations or group areas).
All commencement ceremonies shall adhere to attendance limitations as defined within the CDPH Outdoor Seated Live Events and Performances Guidance. Outdoor, in-person ceremonies are permissible, consistent with this guidance.
If the current county tier the school is operating in does not permit an outdoor, in-person ceremony, see the Alternatives section below.
All attendees must wear masks as per CDPH Face Coverings Guidance and maintain distance of at least 6 feet from other attendees at all times, other than with household members such as when they are in their own vehicles.
- Speakers may remove masks during their remarks as long as they are at least 6 feet away from other attendees. Speakers should keep the time for comments brief to limit the time they are unmasked.
- Attendance must be limited to school staff, graduates, household members, and family members and attendees must abide by travel limitations in the current CDPH Travel Advisory.
- Attendees must sign up in advance of the graduation, and only those who have preregistered may attend.
- Staff or attendants must monitor the number of attendees entering the graduation event and confirm they pre-registered.
- Persons particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 (due to age or underlying conditions) should be discouraged from attending.
- Individuals who are sick or in isolation or quarantine must remain at home.
- All attendees should be screened or self-screen for fever and COVID-19 symptoms before leaving home for the event.
Graduates must enter and exit 6 feet apart from one another in a single line.
Social distancing measures include:
- Signage or pavement/ground markings
- If a line forms outside of the graduation, staff should direct those waiting to maintain social distancing.
- Tape, chalk, or other markings should be laid on the ground outside of the venue
- Staff should direct people to maintain social distancing.
- Staff should direct successive row-by-row exiting.
Before, During, and After
- Staff should enforce face covering compliance throughout.
- The venue must be cleaned and disinfected prior to and after the event, particularly high touch surfaces (bathrooms). Consider cleaning high-touch surfaces (podium) between each speaker. Clean and disinfect shared equipment (microphones) between different users; consult equipment manufacturers regarding the appropriate method.
- Receptions before or after the graduation must comply with the restrictions within the CDPH Guidance for Gatherings appropriate to the county Blueprint tier.
- Food or drink concessions are only allowed per the tier limits outlined in the CDPH Outdoor Live Events and Performances Guidance. Students and families should be advised in advance regarding the availability of refreshments.
- There must be permanent or added barriers to create at least 12 feet between where event attendees sit and the stage or podium. All attendees, including graduates, school administrators, guests or family members, must remain at least 6 feet apart at all times.
- Attendees who are not part of the same household must be seated at least 6 feet apart. Members of the same household are permitted to sit together and less than 6 feet apart.
- If there is permanent seating, rows should be blocked off and kept empty to allow for sufficient distancing between rows.
- Graduates must be seated 6 feet apart.
- Mark 6-foot sections to help attendees understand what 6 feet looks like. This can be done with small flags, tape, or balloons.
- To comply with the 6-foot spacing, handshaking and hugs should not occur.
- Consider limiting the sharing or exchanging of materials (such as throwing graduation caps, “sign-in” practices, programs, gifts, flowers).
- Districts and schools should, if possible, send students diplomas and caps and gowns in advance through the mail or delivery so they can arrive dressed and with their diplomas in hand.
- Graduates may be invited to walk across the stage individually and turn their tassel in lieu of receiving the diploma. Alternatively, diplomas and awards could be distributed if bestowing the awards and diplomas is done in a manner that reduces contact (placing each diploma and award on a table as the graduate walks by to retrieve it). Or, hand hygiene should be performed before and after touching objects and should be available in the appropriate locations.
- Virtual, recorded or live-streamed graduation ceremonies.
- Sharing videos of graduates’ pictures, speeches, graduates’ short messages from classmates, or videos highlighting graduates’ experiences.
- Car parades that meet local health department requirements.
- Drive-in, outdoor ceremonies with graduates marching in the school parking lot but families watching in their cars and listening to the event via radio.
- Use social or local media to highlight graduates
- Postponement: Risky as no guarantee circumstances will be different later.