xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Our View: School board should be allowed to come up with safe, creative plan for graduations

Carroll County’s legislators sent a letter to the health department and the Board of Education sent a letter to the governor’s office. Each correspondence sought to find a way to allow high school seniors to have modified graduation exercises.

Del. Susan Krebs, Sen. Justin Ready, Del. April Rose, and Del. Haven Shoemaker requested “a common-sense provision for socially distanced outdoor graduation ceremonies," noting that they were confident a plan could be fashioned to mirror the governor’s safer-at-home provisions.

Advertisement

Health Officer Ed Singer responded that the governor’s current executive order "restricts gatherings to 10 or fewer people, and graduations are not listed as exempt from this restriction.” When the school board voted to send a letter to the governor requesting to be allowed to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies, Singer said they shouldn’t be surprised if they receive a quick “no.”

That’s a shame. Because there is clearly an arbitrary nature to aspects of the executive orders designed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Advertisement

Schools are being forced to abide by directives of 10 or fewer people in massive auditoriums or stadiums. Meanwhile, customers are free to roam big-box stores by the dozens if not hundreds.

Carroll Christian School is going ahead with its graduation, having received permission from the governor’s office according to an email to the Times from Principal Matthew Reisberg. (Carroll Christian has 29 seniors, far less than Carroll’s public high schools.)

State guidance is a bit of a moving target. On May 13, Gov. Larry Hogan said houses of worship may begin to hold religious services again, at up to 50% capacity. For some churches, 50% means hundreds of people.

It is hard to make a case that it’s OK to allow a few hundred people — many of whom are in the age group most vulnerable to the coronavirus — inside a confined space, but it’s not OK to find a way to spread a few hundred 17- and 18-year-olds across a football field that is 120 yards long and, counting sideline space, probably 70 yards wide.

It seems as though with smart minds and proper planning, using social distancing, there should be a way to make this happen in a stadium, in as safe a manner as possible for anyone who wanted to participate. As an example, board members brought up the Naval Academy commissioning ceremony where midshipmen gathered in smaller groups of 200 while seated at a distance from one another in a ceremony closed to the public.

Understanding it seems unlikely a graduation ceremony for an entire class will be allowed, Carroll County Public Schools unveiled a plan Wednesday that would let families schedule a time to come into a school building one at a time so seniors can walk the stage and receive a diploma from their principal, accompanied by four family members.

Jackson Klingenberg, a senior at Manchester Valley High School who serves as student school board representative, said he thought some students will be happy that the ceremony is more than just a virtual one, but others will not be satisfied as they are still mourning lost sports seasons, proms and other milestones.

Indeed. This solution is better than nothing, better than a strictly virtual approach. Perhaps it’s the best anyone could come up with under the current executive order.

But it is a far cry from allowing a senior class, many of whom have attended school with each other for 13 years, to gather once more to celebrate one of life’s most important milestones, together, with laughter, tears, reminiscences and selfies during a final, memorable, shared experience, albeit at a social distance, without hugs and high-fives.

Board Vice President Marsha Herbert made the motion to petition the governor’s office, saying they owed it to students to try one last time.

The seniors are owed that. And more. We hope the governor grants the school board the leeway to come up with a creative, safe way to hold graduations.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement