State releases guidelines for graduations, Roslyn first to announce commencement under plans

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Roslyn High School's Class of 2019 celebrates their graduation in 2019. This year's seniors could have an in-person graduation. (Photo by Teri West)

Graduation ceremonies for schools across New York can now take place, albeit with COVID-19 limits, and the Roslyn school district has become the first on the North Shore to announce commencement for 2021 under the new plans.

The district said it will hold its high school graduation ceremony on Wednesday, June 16, at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium.

The state released nine pages of guidelines for commencement ceremonies this week, and such ceremonies can begin May 1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference Monday.

“This has been a long year,” he said. “The graduation ceremonies, we think, are important, and we hope schools have graduation ceremonies. We just want them safe and we want them smart.”

The guidelines state that the number of attendees allowed will depend on the size of the venue and whether it is outdoors or indoors.

For outdoor events, large-scale ceremonies of 500 people or more are limited to 20 percent of a venue’s capacity; medium-scale ceremonies between 201 and 500 people are limited to a third of the venue’s capacity; and small-scale outdoor ceremonies or 200 people or lower are limited to 50 percent of a venue’s capacity.

As for indoor events, large ceremonies, or those of 150 people or more, are limited to 10 percent of a venue’s capacity; medium-scale ceremonies of between 101 and 150 people are limited to a third of the venue’s capacity; and small-scale ceremonies of less than 100 people are limited to 50 percent of venue capacity.

Attendees of all events must provide contact information for tracing, complete a health screening, partake in social distancing by household, and wear face coverings.

At events where attendees exceed the state’s general limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings but stay within the capacity percentage, organizers must require all attendees and employees to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours or proof of receiving a complete COVID-19 vaccination at least two weeks before the event. Colleges and schools will also be required to inform their local health departments should events take place.

Last year, districts across the North Shore opted for alternative commencements. The Wheatley School and Mineola High School held drive-through graduations, St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset opted for a virtual graduation, Great Neck North High School held a car parade, and Manhasset Secondary School held two socially distanced ceremonies.

Roslyn High School held eight small in-person ceremonies, but on Tuesday became the first district in the area to announce a graduation under the new rules at Hofstra.

“The Shuart Stadium venue will enable our Class of 2021 to graduate together as one class,” the district said in an emailed statement to the community. “For over a year, our seniors have had to endure the difficult consequences resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our excitement is palpable as we prepare to recognize and salute the Roslyn High School Class of 2021 together as one graduating class in Shuart Stadium.”

The stadium’s 11,929-seat capacity places it within the large scale outdoor tier, meaning that between 500 and 2,385 attendees, the latter number being 20 percent of the stadium’s capacity, will be allowed at the ceremony. Further details have not yet been given.

Even with the in-person guidelines in place, Cuomo said the state would continue to encourage virtual, drive-in or individual ceremonies.

“[Those] are still the safest option for students and families,” Cuomo said. “But, we deserve a break and students deserve their day for graduation and families deserve a little good news. It’s been a long, long year.”

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