May 26, 2020
New Jersey seniors will have the opportunity to graduate in-person, after all.
Gov. Phil Murphy is relaxing coronavirus-related restrictions to allow schools to begin hosting outdoor graduations beginning July 6 – so long as they follow social distancing guidelines.
“To the Class of 2020, I am proud to say that you will have your opportunity to join with your classmates and families to celebrate your graduation," Murphy said during his Tuesday press briefing.
The number of attendees will be dictated by the level of new COVID-19 cases being seen by July, Murphy said. Schools with larger classes may need to spread out their ceremonies over several hours, or even days, in order to maintain proper social distancing. Other guidelines will be released Wednesday by the state's Department of Education and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.
“Our goal is to ensure that our students are given the send-offs they richly deserve and which they have been working toward," Murphy said. "Certainly these will be graduations unlike any others. The steps we are taking are necessary to ensure the health and safety of everyone in attendance, but we are equally as confident that no one will ever forget the way we will celebrate the Class of 2020."
Murphy has been pushed by Republican lawmakers and New Jersey residents in recent weeks to allow for in-person graduation ceremonies. On May 15, three seniors at Toms Rivers High School East filed a lawsuit against the governor in Ocean County Superior Court, claiming his executive order impeded on their constitutional right to attend their graduations.
Murphy also announced that professional sports teams will be allowed to resume practicing at their training facilities. This includes the Sixers and Flyers who practice in Camden and Voorhees, respectively.
“We have been in constant discussions with these teams about the protocols they will have in place to protect the health and safety of players, coaches and team personnel," Murphy said.
Teams also will be allowed to play games in New Jersey, but the decision to resume competition is dependent upon the leagues.