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CDPH Releases Guidance for Commencement/Graduation Ceremonies
On March 26, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) issued Guidance for the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission for Commencement/Graduation Ceremonies (“Guidance”) “to provide recommendations to help students, teachers, families, and school administrators celebrate the momentous milestone of graduation while also preventing the spread of COVID-19.”
The Guidance directs school administrators and organizers of graduation and commencement events to identify and monitor their county’s current tier level and to determine whether more restrictive requirements exists in their local area, such as that from the local public health department, and plan their events accordingly. All commencement and graduation events must comply with both state and local public health guidance and orders.
The Guidance also notes that schools should determine whether different aspects of their commencement and graduation events fall under other state guidance and plan accordingly. These other state guidance materials may include:
- CA Safe Schools for All
- COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Institutions of Higher Education
- CDPH Travel Advisory
- COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Hotels, Lodging, and Short-Term Rentals
- COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Limited Services
- COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year
- CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings
- COVID-19 Guidance: Outdoor Seated Live Events and Performances
- CDPH Guidance for the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission for Gatherings
The Guidance includes requirements and modifications that all commencement and graduation ceremonies must adhere to, such as counting all attendees, including school staff, performers, students, and families, towards the occupancy capacity limit, allowing for at least 2 hours between multiple ceremonies planned for a single day to prevent mixing, and marking audience seating to designate physical distancing requirements. Commencement and graduation ceremonies must adhere to the COVID-19 Guidance: Outdoor Seated Live Events and Performances, and any receptions before or after the graduation must comply with the restrictions within the CDPH Guidance for the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission for Gatherings appropriate to the county Blueprint tier in effect at the time.
The Guidance includes many requirements related to individual control measures, screening, entering/exiting the event, and planning considerations for before, during, and after the event. For example, all attendees must wear face coverings consistent with CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings, 6 feet of distance must be maintained between attendees (except for attendees from the same household), attendees must comply with the CDPH Travel Advisory, attendees must preregister for the event and only those who have preregistered may attend, attendees must be limited to school staff, graduates, household members, and family members, and attendees must be screened or must self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms before leaving home for the event. The Guidance also includes requirements and/or recommendations for strategies for entering and exiting the venue to maintain physical distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, food and drink concessions, placing barriers, placing markers to indicate 6 feet of space, and limiting the sharing and exchanging of materials.
The Guidance also requires that schools communicate in writing to all graduates, their household members, school personnel, and others who may attend that if they are feeling ill, have symptoms of COVID-19, or have potentially been exposed to someone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, they should not attend the graduation event. It may be advisable to include in this communication the other requirements for attendees, such as compliance with the CDPH Travel Advisory, pre-registration, face coverings, physical distancing, how arrival and departure will be handled, and all other information that attendees should be aware of so that the School is able to carry out the event consistent with the Guidance and any local public health orders or state guidance and orders.
The Guidance further provides alternative ceremony and celebration options for schools located in counties that do not currently permit outdoor, in-person ceremonies. Some of these alternative options include, virtual, recorded, or live-streamed graduation ceremonies, sharing videos, car parades, drive-in, outdoor ceremonies, using social or local media, and postponement.
When planning commencement and graduation ceremonies and events, schools should remember that they must comply with local public health orders and guidance in addition to state orders and guidance.