State guidance allows indoor, outdoor graduations

Massachusetts

BOSTON (SHNS/WWLP) – New state guidance sets out minimum safety standards for commencements and graduations held by colleges, universities, and public and private K-12 schools, allowing the ceremonies to be held inside or outside this year, “in event spaces, ballrooms, private clubs, and party rooms, public places, and stadiums, arenas, and ballparks.”

The ceremony must adhere to the capacity limits for the venue they are using and be held in a space that can accommodate six-foot separation between groups.

Although this is good news, for some local colleges, this guidance comes a little too late.

Commencement ceremonies won’t be totally back to normal, but they don’t have to be entirely virtual, the decision is left up to universities. UMass Amherst plans to hold multiple in-person ceremonies, but it’s for graduates only, no family is allowed.

Meanwhile, Holyoke Community College is virtual this year, the college saying planning for the ceremony starts months in advance, so they needed to make a decision ahead of this new guidance.

“Gathering that feedback from students as early as February helped us to understand that they wanted to gather in person as much as possible but that they also understood that we were facing unusual circumstances,” said Amanda Sbriscia, vice president of institutional advancement at Holyoke Community College.

AIC will also be holding a virtual ceremony but is exploring some in-person events during graduation time. So far, Springfield College hasn’t released its plan but is expected to in the coming weeks.

No food or drink are allowed, and guests are limited to six per graduate and must register in advance and attest that they will not attend if they have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive, close contact with an infected person, or are under a doctor or public health official’s order to isolate or quarantine.

Masks are required, and can only be removed by graduates at designated photograph locations and by commencement speakers during their remarks as long as they are at least six feet from the audience.

The guidance, issued by the Department of Labor Standards in consultation with the Department of Public Health, took effect Monday. It also lists required hygiene, cleaning, and disinfecting protocols.

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