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Massachusetts to allow outside graduations with restrictions

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It has been a difficult end of the school year, particularly for seniors. It was looking as if graduates may not get the ceremony they deserve. There is now some hope.

High Schools in Massachusetts have been given rules and guidelines on how to conduct graduations.

According to Commissioner Riley from DPH/HHH, high school graduation ceremonies should proceed with the following schedule and guidelines:

Ceremonies held between now and July 18 should be held virtually or in extremely limited other circumstances following safety protocols (e.g., car parades).

Ceremonies held beginning July 19 may take place outside under the following standards and assuming the public health data supports the continued opening of our state.

General Standards

Any graduation ceremony held outside must be in an unconfined outdoor space that can accommodate social distancing and the flow of air. Tents or other enclosed spaces are not permitted.

Schools must communicate in writing to any graduate, their family, school personnel, and others who may attend that if they are feeling sick, are exhibiting any of the following symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell), or have potentially been exposed to someone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, they should not attend the graduation ceremony. A potential exposure means having household contact or having close contact (within 6 feet) with an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time (over 15 minutes) while the person is symptomatic or 48 hours before symptoms developed.

Persons who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 according to the Centers for Disease Control (e.g., due to age or underlying conditions) should be discouraged from attending the graduation ceremony.

The outdoor space must have sufficient space to accommodate attendees who are not from the same immediate household spaced at least 6 feet apart.

Attendance

Attendance must be limited to graduates and their immediate family members only. Families must sign up in advance of the graduation, and only those who have pre-registered may attend. Children under the age of 5, older adults, and those with vulnerable health conditions should be discouraged from attending.

Staff or attendants must monitor the number of attendees entering the graduation ceremony and confirm that they had pre-registered.

Social Distancing

Seating
Attendees who are not part of the same immediate household must be seated at least 6 feet apart. Members of the same immediate household are permitted to sit together and less than 6 feet apart.

If there is fixed seating, rows should be blocked off and kept empty to allow for sufficient distancing between rows.

Graduates must be seated 6 feet apart.

Entering and Exiting

Every effort must be made to encourage the orderly arrival and exiting of individuals attending the graduation in a manner that encourages social distancing.

Graduates must enter and exit 6 feet apart from one another in a single line.

Other guidelines include:

-Facemasks under COVID-19 guidelines
-No communal gathering/reception either before or after the graduation.
-No food or drink is allowed.
-Access to alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol available at all entrances and exits.
-No hugging or hand shaking should occur.
-Ceremonies should be kept as brief as possible.
-Individuals must promptly depart the premises in an orderly fashion after the ceremony.

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