Lawmakers want to exempt high school graduation from health orders

Lansing School District planning drive-thru graduation again
Published: May. 3, 2021 at 6:23 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Schools across mid-Michigan are announcing plans for a second straight year of pandemic-friendly graduation ceremonies. Many are happening outside, with a limited number of people in the stands, to comply with state health orders.

Now Republican lawmakers want to make it so commencement can move back into auditoriums with a full house watching. The Lansing School District is planning to have another drive-through ceremony outside the administration building on Kalamazoo Street.

The district said it’s happening here even if the state says it’s ok to hold it inside.

“We know we’ve got to stop the spread of COVID-19 if kids want to be back into school in the fall,” said Gabriele Lawrence, Lansing School Board President.

The Lansing School District is mid-Michigan’s largest, which makes graduation in a COVID world a little more challenging.

Lawrence said they’re sticking with what worked last year.

“Getting people vaccinated, keeping people safe and stopping the spread and having a potential super spreader event is not going to help,” said Lawrence.

Williamston is having its graduation at the football field.

Students will have five tickets to give to friends and family so they stay below the 1000 person limit under the state orders.

“We’ve been pretty determined to provide our seniors with as normal end of schools sequence of events as possible,” said Adam Spina, Williamston Community Schools Superintendent.

Spina said they hope to allow more by then.

“We are hopeful that if our case numbers with COVID improve between now and early June that some of those restrictions might be eased,” said Spina.

Some state lawmakers want to speed that process up.

A House bill would exempt this year’s high school graduations from state health orders. One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Sarah Lightner from Jackson County, said the community should decide limitations.

“For their mental health, it’s a step in the right direction for opening Michigan,” said Rep. Lightner.

But Ingham County health officer Linda Vail said this bill isn’t the right move.

“Exempting any kind of a large gathering amongst that age group at this particular time is probably not the wisest thing to do,” said Vail.

Even if the state House and Senate approve the proposal, Governor Gretchen Whitmer still has to sign off. Many schools will also live stream their graduation ceremonies for those who aren’t able to attend in person.

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