NEW YORK — As it stands now, high school seniors who have been denied much of the pomp and circumstance of their final year in high school will not be allowed a traditional commencement ceremony. At a news conference Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, when asked whether students should be allowed to have in-person ceremonies, he can't risk people dying.
"Yeah, I know everybody wants to go to a high school graduation," he said. "I get it. Not if they're going to die."
However, Cuomo gave the go-ahead for drive-in and drive-thru graduation ceremonies because the number of new coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations continue on a downward trend.
There are, however, restrictions with drive-in and -thru ceremonies. According to guidelines from the state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the restrictions include having cars spaced at least 6 feet apart, participants having to stay in their cars for the entire ceremony and no person-to-person contact during the celebration. See the complete restrictions here.
A few high schools have already set up graduation ceremonies at drive-ins. Somers High School graduates will be driving to the Jefferson Valley Mall June 23 where a mix of live and recorded speeches and video will be shown on a movie screen set up in the parking lot, according information from the school.
North Salem grads will be heading up to Amenia in Dutchess County the evening of June 22 for a graduation ceremony at the Four Brothers Drive In Theater. There will be speeches shown on the big screen and then the grads will be treated to pizza and a movie — in their cars.
In Suffolk County, Executive Steve Bellone said that, since state officials agreed to revisit the issue of in-person graduations in July when the county is expected to be in Phase 4 of the state's reopening plans, he will be working with the county's School Superintendents Association to come up with a plan to allow them.
The July plan is something supported by Sen. Shelley Mayer, D-37th Senate District. She and 22 other senators signed a letter that was sent to Cuomo urging the state to "find a way to allow our high school seniors to participate in graduation ceremonies outdoors and in-person" in July.
"We are confident a safe, carefully managed outdoor and in-person high school graduation can be achieved in New York, during the month of July, and under the guidance set by the Department of Health," the letter said.
Now it's your turn to weigh in on the issue. Vote in our unscientific poll and tell us what you think in the comments.