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Carroll lawmakers ask for modified outdoor graduations; health officer says executive orders prevent such a gathering

Graduates make their way into South Carroll High School's graduation ceremony at McDaniel College in Westminster Friday, June 7, 2019.
Graduates make their way into South Carroll High School's graduation ceremony at McDaniel College in Westminster Friday, June 7, 2019. (Dylan Slagle)

Members of the Carroll County delegation asked the local health department to allow outdoor graduations for Carroll County Public Schools, with restrictions, to celebrate the Class of 2020.

But County Health Officer Ed Singer told the Times allowing graduations would go against the governor’s executive orders.

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District 5 Republicans Del. Susan Krebs, Sen. Justin Ready, Del. April Rose, and Del. Haven Shoemaker addressed a letter to Singer that Shoemaker provided to the Times on Tuesday evening.

In it, the lawmakers requested “a common-sense provision for socially distanced outdoor graduation ceremonies where students could be recognized with understandable limits on numbers of guests, the handling of diplomas and even how many students could participate at one time.”

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Singer said that can’t happen.

“While counties can choose to require additional measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we cannot go against the Governor’s Executive Orders," Singer wrote in an email, when asked for a response to the letter. "The current order restricts gatherings to 10 or fewer people, and graduations are not listed as exempt from this restriction.”

The letter referenced Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent lifting of his stay-at-home order in favor of a “safer at home” policy.

“We are confident that a plan can be fashioned that mirrored these provisions. It goes without saying that this would be a strictly voluntary event for students,” the letter reads.

Lawmakers wrote they believe traditions such as graduation are a major part of citizens’ personal journey to recovery.

“This class’s second semester of their senior year has been wrought by this pandemic,” the letter states. “They have, through no fault of their own, been denied the opportunity to participate in proms and other rites of passage typically afforded to graduates.”

Singer is expected to meet with the Carroll County Board of Education on Wednesday.

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