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Can graduation ceremonies be held?

Last Updated: 05/03/2021

School districts and colleges/universities are allowed to hold in-person graduation ceremonies so long as they adhere to the limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings and follow required safety protocols.

For 2020-2021, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has published updated graduation guidance for school districts, and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) has published updated graduation guidance for institutions of higher education for in-person graduation ceremonies.

Both include requirements that ceremonies adhere to social distancing protocols and restrict capacity to protect the health and safety of students and families celebrating these milestones amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Ceremonies must follow the gathering limits in place at the time of the ceremony.

On Friday, May 7, the general outdoor gathering limit will increase to a maximum of 500 people. In addition, the outdoor capacity for large venues with a fixed seating capacity of 1,000 or more will increase to 50 percent capacity.

If there is no unexpected surge in COVID-19 numbers, on Wednesday, May 19, the outdoor gathering limit will be removed. There will be no limit for outdoor gatherings, however, attendees are still required to remain six feet apart from other groups. In addition, the general indoor gathering limit will be increased to 50 people, and the indoor capacity limit will increase to 30 percent for all venues with a fixed seating capacity of 1,000 or more.

Social distancing must be in place, and all guests, graduates, staff, and participants are required to wear face masks, except when doing so would inhibit the individual's health or within other limited exceptions details in EO 163 or any other Executive Order, as applicable.

Individuals who are sick should be discouraged from attending – see CDC guidelines for what individuals should do if they are sick and to see a list of possible COVID-19 symptoms.

School districts and institutions of higher learning should share information on New Jersey's current travel advisories for potential attendees who might be traveling from out-of-state.

School districts and institutions of higher learning may want to consider holding smaller ceremonies throughout the day or over the span of several days to limit crowds, allowing for cleaning in between ceremonies, and allowing the attendees to leave the venue before the next group arrives.

Sources: OSHE In-Person College Graduations; NJDOE Considerations for Graduation Ceremonies and Other End-of-Year School Events 2020-2021