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Upstate High Schools Make Graduation Plans. Governor Allows Ceremonies For Up To 150 people

SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) - As the school year comes to an end, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York state will allow drive-in and drive-through student graduations. He also announced on Sunday that outdoor graduation ceremonies will be allowed starting June 26, but only for up to 150 people. Schools will also have to have strict social distancing guidelines in place. Last week, school districts in central New York had already started to put some graduation ceremony plans in place.

Donna Parkhurst is the principal of the G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton. She said the school will hold a drive-through graduation ceremony with ten cars at a time. Students will need to wear masks and follow social distancing.

“It’s not the closure that we would ever have expected, so there’s a lot of frustration,” Parkhurst said. “It really is the best situation, I guess, that we can have. It’s a tough one. It’s really not what we want, but we’ll make the best of it.”

Chris Denton, the principal of C.W. Baker High School in Baldwinsville said they’ve reviewed guidance from the Onondaga County Health Department, the governor’s orders, consulted with other schools, the county executive and even sent out a survey to students and families.

“We know that during this very difficult time, it’s a hard and difficult decision to make, but that the health and well-being of our students and their families is always our top priority,” Denton said.

The high school will also hold a drive-through event, where students can walk across a stage in front of the school, receive a diploma and have their picture taken. If things change, and the district is allowed a student and family-only ceremony, they’ll do so at their stadium. And if a traditional ceremony is allowed, they’ll hold it at the end of July.

“It’s important for us to take the recommendations that were presented to us, so that’s what we’re doing,” Denton said. “But at the same time, offering the flexibility to change our plans if governor’s orders and recommendations from the health department change.”

New York State and Onondaga County have both issued guidance on how schools should proceed with graduations. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said the county does not make decisions or give approvals for graduations and any plans will come from the school districts themselves.

McMahon said on Twitter Sunday that while a 150 person limit on outdoor graduations may work for smaller schools and mid-sized districts could hold two ceremonies, large districts may not have the resources to hold multiple ceremonies. He’s calling on the state for clear guidance for traditional ceremonies to be part of Phase Four reopening in July.