RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam released preliminary guidance for how K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, may safely hold in-person graduation and commencement events this spring. These tentative plans have been reviewed with education officials and are expected to be included in an April 1 update to Third Amended Executive Order Seventy-Two.
Graduation events held outdoors will be capped at 5,000 people or 30 percent of the venue capacity, whichever is less. Graduation events held indoors may have up to 500 people, or 30 percent of the venue capacity, whichever is less. Attendees must wear masks and follow other guidelines and safety protocols to ensure proper distancing. Preliminary guidance for safely holding graduation and commencement events can be found here.
“I appreciate the work that our schools, students, and teachers have put in to get back into the classroom safely, and the efforts of public health officials and education leaders in developing guidelines for safe graduations and commencements this spring,” said Governor Northam. “We are releasing this guidance early to allow schools to begin planning for this year’s events. While graduation and commencement ceremonies will still be different than they were in the past, this is a tremendous step forward for all of our schools, our graduates, and their families.”
Virginia has currently administered more than 2.7 million total COVID vaccine doses, and 1.8 million Virginians—21.3 percent of the population—have received at least one dose, while more than one million are fully vaccinated. The statewide positivity rate is 5.4 percent. About 50,000 shots are being administered to Virginians each day, and the Commonwealth is on pace to have vaccine available to everyone who wants to get vaccinated by the beginning of May. The acceleration of the vaccine program and the decrease in new COVID-19 cases make it safer to ease restrictions on activities like in-person graduations.
Virginia’s schools are also meeting Governor Northam’s goal to expand opportunities for regular in-person instruction. In early February, Governor Northam directed Virginia’s 132 school divisions to submit plans by mid-March for returning students to their classrooms. At that time, 25 school divisions, representing more than a third of Virginia’s students, had no plans for in-person learning. All school divisions have now submitted plans to meet that goal, and a vast majority of divisions are now offering full time classroom instruction or hybrid schedules that allow students to learn in person at least part of the week. All divisions continue to provide fully remote instructional options for students who choose to learn from home.
Over the past two weeks, Governor Northam and state officials have visited schools at every grade level in 26 school divisions throughout the Commonwealth, highlighting innovative approaches to safe classroom instruction.