LIVINGSTON, NJ — Amid increasing pressure from students and their families, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on 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.

According to Murphy, the graduation ceremonies will be permitted to begin after July 6 as long as the events comply with the social distancing requirements.

After hearing the news on Tuesday, Livingston Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block expressed appreciation toward “all efforts to enhance the celebration of the Class of 2020” and all that these students have accomplished.

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“Over the past weeks we have adjusted to the reality that school district's need to be flexible as developments occur around graduations,” said Block. “Our current plan includes individual receipt of diplomas and a whole-class virtual ceremony in June. Based on today's announcement, we will consider supplementing those events with socially distanced, post-graduation in-person ceremonies in July."

The New Jersey Department of Education is expected to release guidance on the graduations on Wednesday, including logistical provisions for such events, how many people will be permitted to attend, etc.

“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,” said Murphy. 

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,” he 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 hand-written letters from seniors throughout the state and online petition posted to Change.org that had nearly 60,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.

View the full press briefing from Tuesday below: