Education

The Kentucky Department of Education has released options and guidelines for graduation ceremonies amid the coronavirus pandemic, including virtual ceremonies, small in-person ceremonies and drive-in ceremonies.

According to the guidance, no matter which option school districts choose, they should consult with  their local health departments, and remain flexible given the fluid situation.

Here are the options KDE has laid out:

Virtual Ceremony

According to the KDE, the virtual ceremony option “would be easiest in keeping with social distancing guidelines.” Guidance for the virtual ceremony is largely based on a plan designed by the Gulfport School District in Mississippi.

In the virtual ceremony, each senior and up to four family members would report to the auditorium at a separate, scheduled time. The senior would have his or her photo taken in their cap and gown. Then a videographer would capture the senior perform the traditional graduation walk across the stage to retrieve their diploma. The student, family members and all staff would have to wear masks, and social distancing must be practiced, with six feet in between each person.

All the videos of the separate graduation walks would be professionally edited together into one product, including Valedictorian speeches, commencement addresses and other performances. Then at the originally scheduled graduation date and time, the full video would be streamed online for family and friends to watch.

Drive-In Ceremony

For a drive-in ceremony, families would arrive to a parking lot or other large open area in their own cars, with six feet between each vehicle. The seniors, and all family members would remain in their cars for the duration of the ceremony.

“A drive-in ceremony would allow for students, families, faculty and staff to celebrate in the same location, while keeping with social distancing guidelines,” the KDE guidance reads.

The guidance also says the drive-in option creates the most logistical challenges, since not all families own vehicles, and there would need to be planned parking routes and large projection screens and sound equipment.

Summer Ceremony

The KDE guidance says school districts could postpone graduation ceremonies until mid-June or July, “when campus could reopen.”

“Keep in mind the COVID-19 situation is still fluid and officials could need to change
timelines for reopening buildings based on public health,” the guidance says.

Because of crowd-size restrictions, KDE says schools would have to hold multiple small ceremonies in the same venue to work through all the graduates. Currently the CDC prohibits gatherings larger than 10 people.

“Keep in mind that for very large classes, this could mean many ceremonies,” the guidance reads.

An in-person ceremony in the summer would likely still require masks and other personal protective equipment. Gov. Andy Beshear has directed people to wear masks in all public spaces when the state begins to reopen after May 11.

Social distancing guidelines would be followed so that people stand six feet apart.

School staff who interact with students should have their temperatures taken before the ceremony. Any staff member with a temperature higher than 100 degrees will be sent home.

Reimagine The Event

KDE says schools and districts may want to completely reimagine the traditional end-of-year ceremony if it becomes necessary to push the event into the fall, or later.

One suggestion KDE offers is handing out diplomas virtually over the summer, and holding an in-person celebration during the fall or even over the holiday break in 2020, when many college students return home for vacation.

“Keep in mind that restrictions may last some time,” the guidance says.

Another option floated by KDE is combining the 2020 graduation ceremony with one in the future.

Other ideas for celebrating seniors include, a graduation car parade, highlighting seniors on social media and hosting an “early reunion” for the class of 2020 in the spring of 2021.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.