NEW JERSEY — (Updated 11:48 a.m.) Amid increasing pressure from students and their families, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday that schools will be allowed to have in-person graduation ceremonies, something that would have previously been prohibited under the state’s COVID-19 social distancing orders.

The graduation ceremonies, Murphy said, will be permitted to begin July 6 as long as they comply with the social distancing requirements. The state Department of Education, he said, would release guidance on the graduations Wednesday.

“Given that some graduating classes may be too large to accommodate a crowd within the restrictions in place for outdoor gatherings, this guidance may require multiple ceremonies to be held across different times and even different days to ensure proper social distancing,” Murphy said.

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As of Tuesday, the requirements in place allow for outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people. Murphy said that health data will dictate the limits are on outdoor gatherings are come July.

“Our goal is to ensure our students are given the send-offs they richly deserve and which they have been working toward,” Murphy said. “We want them to celebrate and be celebrated by their families, friends and the educators who helped get them there.”

Murphy’s announcement follows calls from both students and parents for the state to permit graduation ceremonies, including a letter from Westfield High School senior class president Alexis Hammer asking that the graduation ceremonies be permitted. Millburn High School’s senior class president, Jamie Serruto, has also penned a letter to the governor asking for the ceremonies to be permitted.

One online petition posted to Change.org calling on Murphy to allow for the graduation ceremonies had nearly 60,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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