Vt. Gov. Announces Fate of High School Graduations During Pandemic

Traditional in-person ceremonies will not be allowed, Gov. Phil Scott and Education Secretary Dan French said

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With Vermont's state models showing it has the nation's third-slowest growth rate of coronavirus infections, Gov. Phil Scott said Friday he's ready for additional, cautious reopening steps.

The Republican and members of his administration announced child care centers can open June 1, and summer camps can operate if they choose to.

However, some camps have already announced they won't be moving ahead with their seasons, and others are still working to figure out if their operations can be adapted to operate safely.

Child care centers and camps will have to follow strict health and safety guidelines, the Scott administration underscored.

The governor also addressed the fate of this year's high school graduations.

"We still can't allow for the large crowds you typically see at these important celebrations," Scott said, announcing that in-person high school graduations in Vermont can't happen this year.

The governor said that even though the spread of the virus has slowed dramatically in Vermont, graduations could still be a disease risk, considering the audience size, guests potentially traveling from out of state, hugs and group photos.

"So many of our graduations are community-wide celebrations, and certainly, my heart goes out to the students," said Secretary Dan French of the Vermont Agency of Education.

Two South Burlington seniors told NECN that, nationwide, the class of 2020 will likely always be bonded by a bit of a sense of loss.

"It wasn't entirely surprising," said student Nisha Shah of Friday's announcement regarding graduations. "Hearing that, again, is sad because graduation is the culminating event."

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"It really sucked, because we've all wanted to be able to graduate," added another senior, Ragulan Sivakumar. "We've dreamed about it the past four years when we'd see all the other classes getting to do it."

French encouraged districts to find creative ways to honor students' accomplishments.

SBHS's principal, Patrick Burke, said the city's leaning toward a virtual graduation next month, then an in-person recognition later in the year — provided it's safe by then.

"As a community, we are going to work to make sure that they feel that support and love and celebration," Burke said of his students in an interview with NECN.

French, the education secretary, said it's his "hope and expectation" that in-person learning can resume at Vermont schools in the fall. However, he noted that a final determination on it will be guided by public health data.

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