Assembly Republicans urge governor to allow in-person graduation ceremonies

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 June 2020 at 9:36 pm

Commencements could go on with social distancing and limited audience, 42 Assembly members write to Cuomo

The 42 Republicans in the Assembly Minority Conference, including Steve Hawley of Batavia and Michael Norris of Lockport, are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to give local school districts more options for holding graduation ceremonies beyond the drive-in and drive-through opportunities announced today.

Will Barclay, minority leader, and the other Republican Assembly members asked the governor to give high schools across the state a chance to hold socially distanced, in-person commencement ceremonies.

The restrictions with the drive-through graduation will greatly diminish what should be a milestone for young people across the state, the conference said in a letter today to the governor.

“The impact of COVID-19 on New York’s students has been especially jarring, as valuable classroom time disappeared, social routines were disrupted and students were forced to miss out on many benefits of student life,” Barclay said. “Let’s give them back this one, important event and try to fill some of the void left by this terrible pandemic. We believe with proper planning and execution, these events could safely be hosted in the near future and provide some much-needed normalcy in these trying times.”

The Assembly Minority’s letter points out traditional graduation ceremonies would provide a sense of closure for students who were so abruptly removed from their regular academic experiences, and have worked tirelessly to achieve educational excellence.

“This has been an extremely trying year for New York students. Now that many regions are seeing substantial drops in COVID-19 cases, it is time not just for reopening the economy, but for repairing the building blocks of our communities. I can think of no better place to do that than in our schools,” said Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, the Assembly Minority Ranker on Education. “Graduating high school is a tremendous accomplishment, and the Class of 2020 and their families deserve to celebrate those accomplishments.”

The Assembly members said students have been isolated at home for nearly three months. A graduation ceremony with the classmates all together would give them a chance to celebrate and say goodbye.

“We should allow our schools the opportunity to host graduation ceremonies, perhaps outside later in the summer with limited guests, while respecting any needed social distancing guidelines applicable at that point in time,” according to the letter. “This will allow students to be recognized for their achievements and accomplishments. We must honor the hard work of our students, especially in these challenging times. There is no more fitting way to do that than to host a graduation ceremony.”

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