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Official Graduation Guidelines Prohibit Ceremonies Indoors & In Sports Stadiums

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- State officials released guidelines on graduation ceremonies for Minnesota schools on Friday, recommending virtual celebrations and nixing gatherings indoors or in outdoor sports stadiums.

"The health and safety of our students and their families will always be our top priority," said Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker, in a statement. "This year's graduation ceremonies will look different than they traditionally do, and I am confident our schools will find creative ways to recognize the incredible work and commitment of our graduating students."

The top recommendation is for colleges and schools to hold virtual graduation ceremonies in which participants don't have to leave their homes and risk spreading COVID-19. Also permitted are car parades and ceremonies in parking lots where families can stay inside their cars.

The guidelines, which can be read in full here, say organizers should keep any type of non-virtual gatherings short, make sure no items are passed between groups of people and serve no food.

As for diplomas, schools are advised to consider curbside pickup or delivery, with staff wearing protective gloves and masks when handling items given to students.

Explicitly prohibited are any indoor gatherings, such as in school auditoriums, or in outdoor sports facilities, like 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," the guidelines say.

Officials say that while some schools are hoping to hold traditional-style ceremonies later this year, they caution that it remains unclear when the public health situation will allow for such gatherings.

The St. Paul School District says they're going to opt for the virtual option. This was a really tough decision for them, empathizing with families heartbroken over graduation. They're trying to make up for it by partnering with graduation company, Jostens, virtually.

"The students and the speakers will be live on a Zoom interface ... and then parents and grandma in another state, or whoever, will be able to watch a live stream," Heather Kilgore, director of family engagement and community partnerships with St. Paul Schools, said.

Next week they'll start doing home deliveries of caps and gowns to students, as well as yard signs just to help their community celebrate. Graduation is set to take place in St Paul the first week of June.

The graduation guidelines were put together by the Minnesota Department of Education, the Office of Higher Education, and the Minnesota Department of Health.

For more than 40 days, Minnesota has been under a stay-at-home order. Since the outbreak began in the state in March, more than 9,000 people have contracted COVID-19 and 508 people have died.

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