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County Public Health Officials Meet with Schools Regarding Graduation


Canton, NY – St. Lawrence County officials met with school superintendents and principals this afternoon to discuss public health implications and questions related to graduation ceremonies due to COVID-19. Decisions on whether or not to host safe, socially distanced, public health focused graduation ceremonies are no doubt difficult. Graduation marks the end of one era and signifies the beginning of a new one; it symbolizes completion and a successful end to an academic era. Ceremonies are a long-awaited tradition—a tradition that during this pandemic is even more challenging to plan and carry out keeping in mind COVID-19 guidance that the county has been working on for the past three months.

While districts and schools may choose to postpone graduation ceremonies, it is not known when large-scale in-person events will be able to be safely held. Public Health Director Dana McGuire commented that “the progression through the reopening phases does not necessarily align with executive orders which limit the number of people allowed at gatherings.” With the movement from Phase I to Phase II, the State did not see a change in the number of people allowed to gather.

“Even if progression to Phases III and IV occurs as we saw for Phase II at the 2-week mark and we enter Phase 4 by the end of June, we don’t know what restrictions will still

be in place and which ones will be lifted,” McGuire stated.

Dr. Williams, MD, FACP states, “we need to balance the needs of students and families to celebrate this important milestone with the need to safeguard the health of families and the community. As a father of a graduating senior I certainly understand how difficult this year has been for our students, which only makes the need for a meaningful ceremony seem more important. The schools will need to be creative and develop a ceremony that is both meaningful and safe.”

Thinking outside the box in celebrating this important milestone is important. While traditional ceremonies and related activities having large groups and inadequate social distancing are not allowed, there are several options that provide graduates long-lasting memories, recognition, and the ability to share the excitement with others who otherwise would not be able to make it in person.

As schools, parents, and students have had many questions, public health guidance was provided to school districts to assist in navigating celebratory decisions. Tom Burns, District Superintendent/CEO of St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES said, “the 18 component school districts in the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES region have worked closely with leadership from St. Lawrence County and County Public Health to ensure the safety of students and staff throughout the COVID-19 crisis. While we understand the disappointment graduating seniors

and their families must feel at missing out on this important milestone, we must prioritize safety as we plan for alternative ways to honor our graduates. We thank our partners at the county for their assistance as we navigate this unprecedented situation.”

Congratulations to all the graduates and their families and best wishes for a safe, healthy and happy summer!


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