TEA Graduation Guidelines
The following requirements apply to graduation and end-of-year promotion ceremonies to be conducted in May 2020 and thereafter. As the public health situation changes, these guidelines may be modified.
Texas continues the reopening of services in response to the COVID-19 disaster. While schools remain closed to normal in-classroom attendance for instruction, schools seek to fulfill the traditional functions of providing graduation and end-of-year promotion ceremonies. The Texas Education Agency provides the following guidance for graduation and end-of-year promotion ceremonies. This guidance will be updated as more information about COVID-19 spread in Texas becomes available and is subject to change.
In order for a school system to determine if a planned graduation or end-of-year promotion ceremony is permissible under Governor Abbott’s current COVID-19 disaster orders, as well as any local orders not in conflict with Governor Abbott’s orders, a school system is advised to first consult with its legal counsel regarding such planned activities. Assuming its legal counsel considers the planned activities permissible, the school system could then seek written approval from applicable local jurisdictions tasked with enforcement of COVID-19-related gubernatorial or local orders to engage in the planned graduation or end-of-year promotion ceremony.
Participation by a student or family member in a ceremony is voluntary and may not be required or compelled by the school.
Between May 15 and May 31, 2020, an outdoor ceremony may take place in a rural county that has an attestation as described in the “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas” (April 27, 2020) that remains in effect 7 days prior to the ceremony.
An outdoor ceremony may take place in any county on or after June 1.
Be advised, this permission is subject to change as underlying public health conditions change. Outdoor ceremonies must meet the following requirements:
- School systems must cap the number of total participants (inclusive of students, families, and staff) to a level that can be managed in the outdoor venue to maximize social distancing, both during the event and during entry and exit.
- School employees and school facilities must comply with the guidance for School Employees in School Facilities except as authorized by this guidance.
- Students and parents (or legal guardians) must comply with the guidance on Student Non- Instructional Visits except as authorized by this guidance.
- Schools using non-school facilities to perform graduation or end-of-year promotion ceremonies must ensure compliance as if the non-school facility were a school and as authorized by this guidance.
- Prior to attending the ceremony, participating students and attending family members must be screened (via questioning) by school system employees for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19:
o Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
o Repeated shaking with chills
o Muscle pain
o Sore throat
o Loss of taste or smell
o Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
o Known close contact with a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19 if exposure to the active confirmed case occurred within the last 14 days
Those found with any of these signs or symptoms must be excluded from the activity.
- Graduates or promoting students may only be brought together for one event per class or breakout group. No rehearsals will be permitted.
- Keep 6 feet or more of spacing between all participants, except that members of the same household (five individuals or fewer, excluding the graduate if seated with the household) may be allowed to sit together in the audience but must be at least 6 feet away from any other family group at all times.
- Hand sanitizer or handwashing stations must be available at all venue entrances.
- School employees at the ceremony must be limited to the minimum number needed to logistically support the ceremony.
- Diplomas or other documents may not be handed from person to person unless gloves are worn by those distributing diplomas or other documents to students.
- Consistent with the actions taken by many institutions across the state, consider having all employees, students, or other visitors wear cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth) while inside any facilities, or if they will come within 6 feet of another person who is not a member of that person’s household, except when photos are taken. If available, they should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks.
- Care should be taken and effort must be made to mitigate virus exposure when participants come into contact with documents and other objects such as diplomas and awards.
- School employees must be stationed appropriately to ensure compliance with all requirements and to limit congregation.
- A robust communication plan must be in place to address steps to be taken before, during, and after the ceremony to ensure that participants are aware of safety protocols at the ceremony and explicit instructions to graduates or promoting students not to congregate outside of school-sponsored ceremonies or events.
- School officials should communicate with students’ families prior to the ceremony to determine how many family members will be attending so they can plan appropriately to implement social distancing measures, logistics, and other safety measures.
- Assigned seating for members of the audience should be considered to more efficiently ensure separation between household groups.
- Specific plans should be developed for arrivals and departures to ensure appropriate social distancing.