Gov. DeWine issues clarification on graduation ceremonies and parties

Posted at 2:49 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 23:24:52-04

CLEVELAND — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine provided some clarification on how graduation ceremonies should be celebrated after he said on Monday that Ohio’s schools and districts can hold in-person graduation ceremonies as long as the schools find a way to maintain social distancing and keep everyone safe.

Recognizing that a graduation ceremony is a rite of passage many students and families look forward to, DeWine said that when schools look at whether to hold a graduation ceremony, social distancing and keeping those practices in place must be first and foremost, adding that mass gatherings can’t be held at the moment.

On Wednesday, DeWine asked the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Health to issue guidance for local schools and health departments.

He provided the following summary during his daily press briefing of types of ways to celebrate graduation:

  • Virtual graduation ceremonies are preferred, and many schools are already doing that.
  • Drive-in ceremonies where students drive to a designated location at a designated time to get their diplomas.
  • An event with 10 or less people at a time, who are socially distanced, where a graduate can receive his or her diploma.

With 612 school districts, DeWine said each school district must work with their local health department to make sure their plan is in accordance with public health guidelines to deal with the pandemic.

Of equal concern, for the governor, is the celebration that follows the graduation ceremony: graduation parties.

"While it’s time to graduate, it’s not the time to have a great graduation party. We’ll have to wait," he said. "I understand how hard this is for the class of 2020. It’s not how you envisioned it, not how your parents envisioned it, not how anyone envisioned it, but I am confident that our schools will be resourceful and creative in how they can honor the class of 2020."

The ODH will have the full guidelines on the coronavirus page here.

Parma’s graduation in-person ceremonies are still set for June at Byers Field, but the district’s plans to separate families throughout the stadium and limiting the district’s 900 seniors to four guests each are on hold.

“Given the fact that the governor has put out two very different messages in the last two days, at this point we’re pressing pause,” Superintendent Charles Smialek said. “We have these dates reserved and we want our families to keep these dates, but we will continue to look for guidance."

Smialek said though things are on hold the district will push to follow its traditional ceremony plans as much as possible. He cited senior and community feedback from a recent survey surrounding the idea of a virtual graduation ceremony.

“We had close to 500 results,” he said. “All of them really adamantly opposed to anything other than in person.”

While honoring the class of 2020 is important, Smialek says their safety is top priority.

“I think the reality is between now and the first week of June many things could change and we’ve seen many things changed in the last couple days so I will continue to monitor the developments at the state level ,but also continue to balance that with the desire to do special ceremonies for our seniors.”

RELATED: Gov. DeWine says in-person graduation ceremonies that practice social distancing would be fine