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NJDOE Issues Modified In-person Graduation Ceremony Guidelines

Author: Scarinci Hollenbeck|June 1, 2020

New Jersey school districts now have three options for holding graduation ceremonies

NJDOE Issues Modified In-person Graduation Ceremony Guidelines

New Jersey school districts now have three options for holding graduation ceremonies

New Jersey school districts now have three options for holding graduation ceremonies amid the COVID-19 pandemic: virtual ceremonies, drive-in/drive-through ceremonies, and modified in-person, outdoor ceremonies. Both drive-in/drive-through and modified in-person, outdoor ceremonies must comply with strict requirements designed to protect the health and safety of participants.

NJDOE Issues Modified In-person Graduation Ceremony Guidelines

Notably, districts planning to hold modified in-person ceremonies must certify compliance with gathering guidelines via an online submission form that will be made available on June 5, 2020 on the State’s website: https://covid19.nj.gov/.  The form must be submitted no later than seven days prior to the scheduled date of the ceremony.

Districts should keep municipal officials, including the local Office of Emergency Management, local law enforcement, first responders, and local health officials informed of their plans for ceremonies. Districts should also contact their insurance carrier regarding the carrier’s position on any potential plans before deciding to hold a drive-in/drive-through or modified in-person graduation ceremony.

NJDOE Commencement Ceremony Guidance

The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has issued several rounds of guidance regarding 2020 commencement ceremonies. As discussed in a prior article, Executive Order No. 142 (Order) authorized car gatherings for the purpose of drive-through and drive-in events under specific circumstances. School graduations, so long as comply with the restrictions set forth in the Order, can be conducted as a drive-in or drive-through event. As detailed in the NJDOE’s guidance, some of the major factors involving drive-through and drive-in ceremonies include:

  • Drive-through and drive-in commencement ceremonies must comply with all requirements of Executive Order 142, or the rules or requirements for vehicular gatherings that are in place at the time of the ceremony;
  • Accommodations should be made to allow families without vehicles to participate while adhering to social distancing protocols;
  • If allowing access to restrooms, take appropriate measures to prevent congregation;
  • Multiple ceremonies may be needed depending on class size;
  • Consider potential broadcasting of the ceremony or otherwise making a livestream available for family members unable to attend; and
  • Organizers or others assisting with the event, and who are not in closed vehicles, must follow all applicable Executive Orders and Administrative Orders and must wear face coverings, except where doing so would inhibit that individual’s health.

On May 26, Gov. Murphy announced that modified in-person ceremonies can be held after July 6, 2020. When conducting modified in-person commencement ceremonies, the guidelines are as follows:

  • The ceremonies must take place outdoors
  • Ceremony capacity limitation is dependent upon the number of participants able to attend while keeping 6 feet distance between attendees or open vehicles.
  • The event must keep participants, socially distanced (6 feet) while walking, standing or sitting and masks must be worn (except for limited exemptions). Immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners are not required to keep socially distanced from one another.
  • Signage should be posted discouraging anyone who is sick or anyone who has been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days from attending.
  • Monitors at entrances and egresses should disperse crowding and Districts should consider staggering arrival times if necessary.
  • Temperature screenings with non-contact thermometers of everyone entering the venue are recommended. Where such screenings are conducted, any person with a temperature of 100.4 °F or greater should be excluded from the event.   
  • Open-air rain tarps, tents, and other outdoor structures shall be allowed solely for the purpose of protecting against foul weather or for shade.
  • Staff members should be limited to only those required to facilitate the planned commencement ceremony.
  • Contact-less delivery of students’ diplomas and caps/gowns and attendees’ programs, maps, and other documents should occur in advance of the ceremony by mail or other electronic means.
  • Exchanges should be avoided during the ceremony which typically occur with flowers and graduation cap throwing.
  • Projection screens or sound equipment may be used to allow school staff to call student names, display photos or videos, and provide other audio-visual support.
  • Participants should not share microphones or megaphones.
  • Ceremonies should be limited in length, group performances, and speakers.
  • Students may walk across a stage or area and pose for a picture individually.
  • A designated photographer should take pictures and provide to families free of charge to avoid group gatherings.
  • Ceremonies should be live-streamed for individuals who are excluded from the event.
  • If allowing access to restrooms, appropriate measures must be taken to prevent congregating such as marking standing locations for lines and assigning staff to monitor distancing. 
  • Proper disinfection protocols should be implemented for restrooms and between ceremonies if more than one will be held.

Under the most recent guidance, updated on May 28, 2020, modified in-person outdoor ceremonies may only occur after July 6, 2020. Virtual ceremonies and drive-in/drive-through ceremonies can occur at any time provided that they comply with executive Order No. 142. The NJDOE has advised that districts should not hold ceremonies on July 7, 2020, which is Primary Election Day.

School Districts should consult their insurance in planning any in-person graduation ceremonies.

For more information about conducting 2020 graduation ceremonies or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government and Educaton Law Group at 201-896-4100.

NJDOE Issues Modified In-person Graduation Ceremony Guidelines

Author: Scarinci Hollenbeck

New Jersey school districts now have three options for holding graduation ceremonies amid the COVID-19 pandemic: virtual ceremonies, drive-in/drive-through ceremonies, and modified in-person, outdoor ceremonies. Both drive-in/drive-through and modified in-person, outdoor ceremonies must comply with strict requirements designed to protect the health and safety of participants.

NJDOE Issues Modified In-person Graduation Ceremony Guidelines

Notably, districts planning to hold modified in-person ceremonies must certify compliance with gathering guidelines via an online submission form that will be made available on June 5, 2020 on the State’s website: https://covid19.nj.gov/.  The form must be submitted no later than seven days prior to the scheduled date of the ceremony.

Districts should keep municipal officials, including the local Office of Emergency Management, local law enforcement, first responders, and local health officials informed of their plans for ceremonies. Districts should also contact their insurance carrier regarding the carrier’s position on any potential plans before deciding to hold a drive-in/drive-through or modified in-person graduation ceremony.

NJDOE Commencement Ceremony Guidance

The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has issued several rounds of guidance regarding 2020 commencement ceremonies. As discussed in a prior article, Executive Order No. 142 (Order) authorized car gatherings for the purpose of drive-through and drive-in events under specific circumstances. School graduations, so long as comply with the restrictions set forth in the Order, can be conducted as a drive-in or drive-through event. As detailed in the NJDOE’s guidance, some of the major factors involving drive-through and drive-in ceremonies include:

  • Drive-through and drive-in commencement ceremonies must comply with all requirements of Executive Order 142, or the rules or requirements for vehicular gatherings that are in place at the time of the ceremony;
  • Accommodations should be made to allow families without vehicles to participate while adhering to social distancing protocols;
  • If allowing access to restrooms, take appropriate measures to prevent congregation;
  • Multiple ceremonies may be needed depending on class size;
  • Consider potential broadcasting of the ceremony or otherwise making a livestream available for family members unable to attend; and
  • Organizers or others assisting with the event, and who are not in closed vehicles, must follow all applicable Executive Orders and Administrative Orders and must wear face coverings, except where doing so would inhibit that individual’s health.

On May 26, Gov. Murphy announced that modified in-person ceremonies can be held after July 6, 2020. When conducting modified in-person commencement ceremonies, the guidelines are as follows:

  • The ceremonies must take place outdoors
  • Ceremony capacity limitation is dependent upon the number of participants able to attend while keeping 6 feet distance between attendees or open vehicles.
  • The event must keep participants, socially distanced (6 feet) while walking, standing or sitting and masks must be worn (except for limited exemptions). Immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners are not required to keep socially distanced from one another.
  • Signage should be posted discouraging anyone who is sick or anyone who has been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days from attending.
  • Monitors at entrances and egresses should disperse crowding and Districts should consider staggering arrival times if necessary.
  • Temperature screenings with non-contact thermometers of everyone entering the venue are recommended. Where such screenings are conducted, any person with a temperature of 100.4 °F or greater should be excluded from the event.   
  • Open-air rain tarps, tents, and other outdoor structures shall be allowed solely for the purpose of protecting against foul weather or for shade.
  • Staff members should be limited to only those required to facilitate the planned commencement ceremony.
  • Contact-less delivery of students’ diplomas and caps/gowns and attendees’ programs, maps, and other documents should occur in advance of the ceremony by mail or other electronic means.
  • Exchanges should be avoided during the ceremony which typically occur with flowers and graduation cap throwing.
  • Projection screens or sound equipment may be used to allow school staff to call student names, display photos or videos, and provide other audio-visual support.
  • Participants should not share microphones or megaphones.
  • Ceremonies should be limited in length, group performances, and speakers.
  • Students may walk across a stage or area and pose for a picture individually.
  • A designated photographer should take pictures and provide to families free of charge to avoid group gatherings.
  • Ceremonies should be live-streamed for individuals who are excluded from the event.
  • If allowing access to restrooms, appropriate measures must be taken to prevent congregating such as marking standing locations for lines and assigning staff to monitor distancing. 
  • Proper disinfection protocols should be implemented for restrooms and between ceremonies if more than one will be held.

Under the most recent guidance, updated on May 28, 2020, modified in-person outdoor ceremonies may only occur after July 6, 2020. Virtual ceremonies and drive-in/drive-through ceremonies can occur at any time provided that they comply with executive Order No. 142. The NJDOE has advised that districts should not hold ceremonies on July 7, 2020, which is Primary Election Day.

School Districts should consult their insurance in planning any in-person graduation ceremonies.

For more information about conducting 2020 graduation ceremonies or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government and Educaton Law Group at 201-896-4100.

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