Limited Access to School Buildings by Students Now Permitted; TEA’s Guidance on Graduation Ceremonies
by Holly James
Under Executive Order GA-21, issued by Governor Abbott on May 5, 2020, school districts may now allow students to access school buildings as follows:
- A student (accompanied by an adult if needed) may, as allowed by the school consistent with the minimum standard health protocols found in guidance issued by TEA, visit his or her school campus for either of the following purposes:
- (a) for limited non-instructional administrative tasks such as cleaning out lockers, collecting personal belongings, and returning school items like band instruments and books; or
- (b) for graduating seniors, to complete post-secondary requirements that cannot be accomplished absent access to the school facility and its resources, excluding any activity or assessment which can be done virtually.
Additionally, GA-21 provides that “schools may conduct graduation ceremonies consistent with the minimum standard health protocols found in guidance issued by the TEA.” TEA’s guidance pertaining to graduation ceremonies, also released on May 5th, establishes the following restrictions:
- In-person, indoor ceremonies are not permitted yet.
- In person, outdoor ceremonies may take place in any county on or after June 1st, although this is subject to change depending on underlying public health conditions.
- Between May 15 and May 31, outdoor ceremonies are permitted in rural counties that have filed the required attestation form regarding five or fewer COVID-19 cases.
- Vehicle ceremonies may proceed effective May 15th, provided they comply with relevant executive orders and guidelines.
- “Hybrid ceremonies” may proceed effective May 15th, provided they comply with relevant executive orders and guidelines. (Hybrid ceremonies involve a prerecorded production utilizing videos of students, either individually or in small groups, who may brought into school or other location to be filmed in caps and gowns, walking across the stage to receive their diploma, etc.)
- Completely virtual ceremonies are approved and may proceed without the need for any further action on the part of the district.
With respect to hybrid and vehicle ceremonies, TEA notes that school districts should first consult their legal counsel to determine whether specific plans for the ceremony are permissible under Governor Abbott’s orders and any local orders that are not in conflict with the Governor’s orders. TEA advises districts to then seek written approval from applicable local jurisdictions tasked with enforcement of COVID-19-related orders.
TEA’s guidance includes many creative ideas from Texas school districts regarding each type of ceremony listed above. If you’d like us to review the specifics of any graduation plan your district is considering, we would be glad to help.