Montgomery Co. to allow in-person graduations with restrictions

Montgomery County, Maryland, high school seniors will be able to enjoy in-person graduation ceremonies this year.

On Tuesday morning, the County Council approved a measure that will allow such ceremonies, but with restrictions. In a unanimous vote, members approved outdoor ceremonies limited to 50% capacity. Indoor ceremonies will be restricted to 25% or 250 people, whichever is smaller.

“I think it’s really time to let our students and our children have more of a return to normalcy,” Council member Hans Riemer said.

Some of the other guidelines that schools will have to abide by:

  • Schools that plan an indoor ceremony must obtain a letter of approval, showing how they will meet the general requirements.
  • A record of everyone attending the ceremony must be kept for 30 days to enable contact tracing.
  • No more than 10 people can be on the stage at one time.
  • The ceremony must last no more than two hours.
  • Diplomas must be distributed without handshakes or physical contact.
  • Members of the audience from different households must remain at least 6 feet apart at all times.

Council member Craig Rice urged caution and said compared to where things were a year ago, there has been real progress that allows for more participation.

“Parents are going to appreciative of whatever it is that you can do beyond what my daughter did, which was stand in front of a banner in front of her high school, and we took pictures from a car that was probably about 20 feet away.”

But Rice expressed impatience as some of the discussion focused on access to vaccinations. He said that while eligibility is open to everyone, there are still thousands of people in Montgomery County who have registered but are awaiting vaccination appointments. Rice urged his colleagues to “stop pretending” that the vaccines are available to everyone who wants one.

“That is not what’s happening! Folks are still waiting!”

Parent Rami Kandel, the parent of a graduating senior, said his son had experienced a year without many of the things that make graduation special.

“No homecoming dance, no fall football nights, no class of ’21 car decorating, no prom, none of the last year together celebration milestones” he said. “Let them have their in-person graduation — outdoor, socially-distanced graduation.”

Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz spoke directly to students: “Congratulations to the graduates!” he said. “Your resilience, your strength and your leadership has not gone unnoticed.”

According to the latest data from the county, the 14-day average test-positivity rate is in the “very low” range — around 3% — and the seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 residents is 9.8.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.


More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.


More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Jack Pointer

Jack Pointer is a writer and editor with a variety of news and publishing experience, including more than a decade at The Dallas Morning News and Chicago Tribune.

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