ODE Graduation Recommendations
The Ohio Department of Education has been fielding several questions about graduation ceremonies and other end-of-year recognition ceremonies for students. Educators, students and parents are questioning whether they should attempt to hold in-person events of this nature. 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. Congregate graduation ceremonies should not be held. Additionally, we recommend holding a virtual or alternate recognition on the original intended graduation date or a date very close to that date.
Governor 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…” We are asking the education community 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.
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.
Therefore, school leaders should 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.