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A Statement on Graduation Guidelines

From June 5-7, Governor Cuomo signed executive orders allowing for in-person summer school for students with disabilities, extending school budget voting deadlines and modifying New York state’s June 4 guidance on graduation ceremonies. Though executive orders may be necessary to address the State’s ongoing response to COVID-19, the short notice and quick deadlines place local school leaders in the challenging and complicated position of swiftly revisiting significant decisions that already required extensive planning. Such has been the case with so many of the recent education-related executive orders released by Governor Cuomo. 

As educators, we recognize and share the frustrations felt among our component school districts, staff members, students and families. These frequent changes make an already uncertain time that much more difficult. Moving forward, we continue to hope for more timely consideration to be applied to education-related matters and that the insights of educators will be solicited and incorporated on the state level.

The new graduation guidelines state that outdoor, socially distanced graduations of up to 150 people will be allowed beginning June 26, subject to any outbreaks or significant changes in the metrics. With these frequent changes and the uniqueness of each school district, it is likely that graduation ceremonies will look very different from school to school, even within our local region. School districts are planning a variety of different ceremonies that will best accommodate their district’s graduating class size while still anticipating further changes to state guidelines. While some districts may be able to modify their current plans, others may still need to move forward with the graduation plans that they already had in place prior to this most recent announcement.

We know that the Class of 2020 has already been denied so many of the milestones that mark a traditional senior year and we are all striving to celebrate them in any ways that we can.

One thing we are certain of is that all school districts are working hard to make sure they can still honor and recognize their graduates in special ways within any guidelines set forth. School superintendents, administrators, teachers and staff care deeply about their students and are, of course, invested in their journeys and successes. It has been heartbreaking for educators as well to realize they will not be able to provide their students with the traditional ceremonies that they have worked for and deserve.

As we move through the next several weeks, we hope that our school districts, students and families can find unity in their pride for their graduates. This is still a time for celebration and we extend our heartfelt congratulations to the Class of 2020!


The statement is made on behalf of the OHM BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Patricia Kilburn and the superintendents of OHM BOCES' component school districts.

The Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES serves the following school districts: Brookfield, Clinton, Holland Patent, New Hartford, New York Mills, Oriskany, Remsen, Sauquoit Valley, Utica, Waterville, Westmoreland and Whitesboro.