As Texas continues the reopening of services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, school buildings remain closed to normal in-classroom instruction for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year. Schools administrators across the state have been seeking guidance as on how schools can properly celebrate graduation. Today, TEA announced what they called a “comprehensive graduation ceremony guidance” for Texas school systems.
As part of Governor Greg Abbott’s Strike Force to Open Texas, TEA announced “four different pathways for schools to celebrate their graduating seniors”:
- Completely virtual ceremonies that take place entirely online, with the use of videoconference or other technologies;
- Hybrid ceremonies, which consist of a compilation of videos of students being recognized in person as they celebrate graduation in small groups;
- Vehicle ceremonies, in which students and their families wait in their cars while other graduates are recognized one at time with their families alongside them;
- Outdoor in-person ceremonies, which are currently permitted for counties as follows:
- Between May 15 and May 31, 2020, an outdoor ceremony may take place in a rural county that has an attestation as described in the “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas” (April 27, 2020) that remains in effect 7 days prior to the ceremony.
- An outdoor ceremony may take place in any Texas county on or after June 1.
Ensuring public health and safety is to remain the focus for all involved in graduation preparations. Keeping in mind TEA’s guidance on how to safely conduct these ceremonies, “each district is at liberty to determine if any of these options best serve the needs and desires of their community.”
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath remarked, “Graduation ceremonies mark a major milestone for students and their families. All educators are committed first and foremost to ensuring the health and safety of our students, families, and staff. By taking the necessary precautions developed by medical experts, we can ensure we appropriately honor our Class of 2020 graduates while keeping everyone safe.”
The full details of TEA’s graduation ceremony guidance can be found in “Guidance for Graduation and End-of-Year Promotion Ceremonies During COVID-19 May 5, 2020,” a 5-page instruction guide for schools.