Distanced high-fives and hugs for Virginia high school graduates

The 2020-2021 Virginia school year has been rife with starts, stops, twists and turns, during the coronavirus pandemic — and now, traditional end-of-year activities are starting to come into focus.

Preliminary guidance from Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Education on graduations and commencements lays out requirements that schools must follow to host individual outdoor or indoor graduation ceremonies.

Most schools will plan outdoor ceremonies in stadiums, which will be capped at 5,000 people or 30% of the venue capacity, whichever is less. Indoor events can have up to 500 people, or 30% of capacity, whichever is less.

However, planners will have to forego many of the elements often paired with students receiving their diplomas in a schoolwide graduation.

Tailgating, souvenir stands, concessions and gaming areas won’t be allowed, in an attempt to further minimize risk: “Eliminate social congregation before, during or after the event,” according to the guidance.

Masks will be mandatory — including for musicians, who are expected to remain a minimum of 10 feet away from each other and audience members.

While students will be able to share the exhilaration of completing high school, they’ll be required to maintain 10 feet of physical distance: “This includes handshakes, hugs and other physical interactions.”

Northam’s current end-of-year restrictions offer no guidance on how schools can safely hold a prom or other social activities.

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.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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