Virginia Gov. Northam releases in-person graduation guidelines

An early draft plan for in-person graduation ceremonies for K-12 districts and higher education shows what a transition back to normal may look like.
Ralph Northam
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Foreshadowing a return to normalcy, Virginia Gov. Ralph on Wednesday released a draft plan with guidelines for holding in-person graduations and commencements this spring. 

Under Northam’s proposed plan, graduation events for K-12 districts and higher education institutions will be capped at 5,000 people or 30% of the venue’s capacity, whichever is less. Masks, social-distancing, warning signs and the usual host of safety guidelines would also be required. The proposal contains an extensive bulleted list with dozens of requirements that dictate cleaning protocols, additional social distancing space for live musicians and prohibitions on the sale of food and drinks.

For schools in Virginia, where the state says about 21% of its 8.5 million residents have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, the announcement indicates a transition to a post-COVID educational environment. Universities have gotten creative with their graduation ceremonies during the pandemic, introducing new features on virtual platforms and mailing swag to virtual participants, but they’ve left some graduates feeling they’ve missed out on an important rite of passage.

“We are releasing this guidance early to allow schools to begin planning for this year’s events,” Northam said in a press release. “While graduation and commencement ceremonies will still be different than they were in the past, this is a tremendous step forward for all of our schools, our graduates, and their families.”

Colin Wood

Written by Colin Wood

Colin Wood is the editor in chief of StateScoop and EdScoop. He’s reported on government information technology policy for more than a decade, on topics including cybersecurity, IT governance and public safety.

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