COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Education has been fielding questions about graduation ceremonies and other end-of-year recognition ceremonies for students.
The bottom line is, that ODE officials say congregate (traditional) graduation ceremonies should not be held. Additionally, the ODE recommends holding a virtual or alternate recognition on the original intended graduation date or a date very close to that date.
“While we understand the significance, tradition and rites of passage many of these events represent, particularly for our seniors, schools should hold events virtually rather than conducting in-person events of this type, and record these events whenever possible and practicable,” the ODE said in a news letter to school officials late last week.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, during his press conference on Monday, April 20, stated:”the gathering of significant numbers of people is a dangerous situation. Just as schools have been innovative in regard to how to teach from a distance, I know that they will be innovative as they look at how…they honor the students…”
For that reason, school district officials are being asked to “come together and honor our students, especially our seniors, in a manner that doesn’t pose health risks to anyone. Schools should continue to recognize the importance of restrictions on mass gatherings, and events should be aligned with the Ohio Department of Health’s Order.”
The ODE state that hosting in-person events can lead to many other negative consequences, including the following:
- With each change of venue and/or calendar delay (July or later graduation ceremony), there is no guarantee that large gatherings will be permitted, and there is a risk of fewer students actually participating due to other life plans such as beginning employment, attending college, military enlistment, etc.
- In-person events add to the complexity of asking students to comply with social distancing, as these events often are highly emotional, invoking natural physical responses (such as high fives and hugs).
- In-person events, even if only for participants, can lead to other people (family members, relatives, friends) wanting to physically attend, even though not permitted to do so.
- Pressure is unintentionally put on other high schools (principals, superintendents and board members) that have chosen to conduct events virtually rather than in person.
School leaders are being asked to conduct graduation ceremonies and other recognition events in a remote manner that honors each student in a safe and responsible way, prioritizing the health needs of students, their families and the community.
Ohio Department of Education officials are urging school administrators to hold virtual, or alternate, graduation ceremonies this year, and to not postpone until later in the summer. They say the emotion of traditional would make it difficult to social distanding guidelines.
2019 Galion High School class president Sari Conner tries to take the ultimate selfie last year at the last year’s graduation at the high school. Because of COVID-19, the Ohio Department of Education is asking school officials to hot have traditional graduations this year.