State lawmakers push for July high school graduation ceremonies

Hudson Valley. Legislators say New York should follow New Jersey's lead and permit permit outdoor, in-person, socially distant high school graduation ceremonies starting in July.

| 27 May 2020 | 04:16

State Sen. James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley), along with many of his colleagues in the Senate Majority, sent a letter this week to the Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging that guidance be developed to permit outdoor, in-person, socially distant high school graduation ceremonies starting in July.

On Tuesday, New Jersey’s Gov. Phil Murphy announced that his state will allow outdoor, in-person, high school graduation ceremonies starting July 6.

In the letter to Cuomo, the state senators asserted that as long as social distancing is maintained and public health guidelines are followed, including mask-wearing, New York State ought to provide students with the meaningful opportunity to graduate with their classmates.

“It’s ever-important that public health practices be maintained as we move to provide New Yorkers the meaningful opportunities they deserve like graduation ceremonies," Skoufis said in the press release announcing the effort. "These students have persevered and finished school through incredibly challenging circumstances that none of us have ever previously experienced; we have an obligation to ensure they are adequately recognized and have an opportunity to celebrate together before they start the next chapter of their lives. While public health precautions remain paramount - and there must be zero-tolerance enforcement of social distancing and mask-wearing at these events - our students deserve a proper, safe commencement day.”

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt sent a similar letter to the governor, citing New Jersey's decision.

"I see no reason why in the Mid-Hudson Valley region you cannot authorize the same arrangement," Schmitt wrote. "Our region is reopening and strict standards can be in place to still allow in-person open-air summertime ceremonies.

"Please give our New York students the same opportunity that their New Jersey counterparts just received to celebrate graduation in-person at outdoor ceremonies this summer,” the assemblyman added.