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DOE to allow in-person graduation under strict rules

The Maui News

The state Department of Education announced Thursday that it will allow limited, in-person graduation ceremonies provided the schools follow guidelines “that ensure the health and safety of students, staff and families.”

DOE spokeswoman Nanea Kalani said in an email that schools will need to determine if they can meet the guidelines.

Other large in-person social gatherings for the rest of the school year remain canceled. The department made the announcement Jan. 11 but had left open the possibility of graduation ceremonies while it coordinated with local officials on in-person and virtual plans.

Mayor Michael Victorino said Monday that he was working with Maui County schools on in-person graduation ceremonies.

“Our school leaders have shown they are able to implement and enforce the protocols that have kept our staff and students safe,” Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said in a news release Thursday. “While we cannot prevent exposure to COVID-19, the department has systems in place to immediately address cases and has avoided transmission of the virus at HIDOE facilities to date.”

She added that the modified ceremonies will not look like pre-pandemic celebrations but will allow for flexibility for schools beyond virtual options.

In addition to standard school health and safety protocols, commencement events must adhere to guidelines that include:

• Ceremonies must be held outdoors or in a venue with adequate ventilation. Third-party venues are allowed.

• Graduates are allowed to bring maximum of two members from their household, with no additional guests. Schools may reduce the number based on venue restrictions and ceremony format.

• Larger schools that cannot host a safe, in-person ceremony may consider alternative options such as a blend of in-person and virtual ceremonies, staggered drive-thru ceremonies or drive-in formats.

The guidelines also call for social distancing among employees, attendees and participants; prohibit singing and/or wind instruments but allow for solo performances and pre-recorded music; and require masks at all times. Student participation will be voluntary.

The full list of guidelines can be found under DOE’s in-person commencement announcement at hawaiipublicschools.org.

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