Montgomery County Council Approves Guidance for In-person School Graduations

Excerpts below from the Bethesda Magazine article ‘UPDATED: Council approves guidance for in-person school graduations‘ (April 20, 2021).

Montgomery County high school seniors will be able to walk across graduation stages this spring after a year of mostly virtual learning and upended experiences.

The County Council unanimously approved guidance and restrictions for in-person graduations on Tuesday morning.

Montgomery County Public Schools was originally planning for traditional in-person graduation ceremonies before shifting to hold ceremonies at outdoor stadiums. A decision about whether virtual ceremonies should be held instead was expected this month.

The council, sitting as the Board of Health, implemented several restrictions, including:

● The total number of people present at an outdoor graduation ceremony must be limited to 50% of the outdoor venue’s maximum occupancy.
● If an outdoor venue does not have a formal certificate of occupancy, 40 square feet per person must be used to calculate the occupancy limit.
● The total number of persons present at an indoor graduation ceremony would be limited to 25% of the maximum occupancy or 250 people, whichever is smaller.
● A school that plans an indoor graduation ceremony must obtain a Letter of Approval for its plan, showing how it would meet the general requirements of the regulation.
● A record of everyone attending the graduation must be kept for 30 days to enable contact tracing.
● The school must identify a point of contact for attendees to notify if they test positive for COVID-19 within two weeks after the event. The point of contact must notify the county’s Department of Health and Human Services within one business day of notice of a positive test.
● No more than 10 people can be on the stage at one time.
● The ceremony must last no more than two hours.
● Members of the audience from different households must remain at least six feet apart at all times.
● Signage explaining the infectious-disease-control requirements must be posted at the venue.
● No group or staged photography.
● No congregating or gathering in common areas both inside and outside the venue before or after the ceremony.
● A masked speaker must be at least 12 feet from the audience and an unmasked speaker must be at least 18 feet from the audience.
● Diplomas must be distributed without handshakes or physical contact.
● No food or beverage concessions at the ceremony.

During a school board meeting Tuesday afternoon, MCPS Associate Superintendent James Koutsos said the district is working with the county health department to obtain a waiver that would allow a maximum of two guests per graduate at its outdoor ceremonies. He said MCPS expects a response this week.

Graduations will be held between June 2 and 17 [2021] at high schools’ athletic stadiums. All ceremonies will be held at either 9 a.m. or 6 p.m. to “avoid the heat of the day,” aside from ceremonies at MCPS’ three special schools.