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Outdoor Graduations Up to 150 People Allowed, Beginning July 6

Photo by Shilad Sen via Flickr.

Governor Ned Lamont announced today that Connecticut schools will be allowed to hold outdoor, in-person graduations of up to 150 people beginning July 6. An executive order is expected to follow.

“While it may not be the graduation you expected, it will be memorable,” the governor quipped, praising Connecticut residents for “making the best of what’s a complicated situation.”

While in-person ceremonies are capped at 150 people and must be held outdoors, Lamont said that many options exist for schools that have greater numbers of students or have made alternative plans. Schools with more than 150 graduates may, for example, hold multiple ceremonies within the 150-person limit. Car graduations and virtual events are also being planned in many districts.

“We’re cautiously getting back to a new normal,” Lamont said.

“All districts are working really hard to honor our seniors,” noted Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, who commended teachers for their extraordinary efforts during Connecticut’s period of distance learning, where they have worked diligently to stay connected with their students.

Touching on those efforts, a graduating senior at Farmington High School who is helping plan his class commencement said, “We have built bonds and relationships with our peers and teachers that will be everlasting.”

Acknowledging the many challenges involved in distance learning—including engaging and connecting with students—Cardona spoke of equity gaps exposed or made worse by the pandemic.

“We recognize that COVID-19 has exacerbated gaps in access to technology and learning, and our State Department of Education is more committed than ever to equalizing access,” he said, adding that racial inequities and COVID-19 “both are hard to see at times, but their effects can last a lifetime.”

When asked about specific school reopening procedures in the fall, Cardona said his agency is still working on developing a plan and expects to have a better idea in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, he said, they are listening to parents, teachers, administrators, and others.

While thousands of Connecticut students will be graduating this summer, many others face a very different kind of milestone: aging out of special education services. Asked whether the state will extend those services for young adults aging out, Cardona replied, “We are looking at different approaches, and we are days away from giving that guidance.”

Today’s graduation announcement came on the heels of specific guidelines issued on Monday regarding summer school. That guidance is available at https://portal.ct.gov/SDE/Digest/Superintendents-Digest

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