Senate District 5
Stephen A. Huffman
COLUMN: State failed graduates of 2020
A Guest Column by State Senator Steve Huffman
June 4, 2020

Twice on April 28th, Governor DeWine stated, once on the radio and then at his afternoon press conference, that he would allow a conventional graduation if proper social distancing would occur. Shouts of joy from seniors, parents and school leaders could be heard throughout the state as school leaders started to plan for graduation to honor the senior class. A headline on on April 28 was “Ohio Schools can hold in-person graduation ceremonies if social-distancing precautions are taken, Gov. Mike DeWine says.”

But the following day, Governor DeWine stated there was some “confusion” and that he would not allow a conventional high school graduation of more than 10 people. That day, the Ohio Department of Education came out with guidance to not have more than 10 people at a time at graduation. There was a mass disappointment from the 2020 graduating class and their families around the state.

I have written the governor multiple times asking him to do what he has done with other aspects of opening up Ohio: form an advisory group of experts such as superintendents, health commissioners, parents and others to give him guidance on how a conventional high school graduation should be done with proper social distancing. Governor DeWine has formed these advisory groups to open the county fairs, restaurants, gyms and other large venues, but still nothing concerning high school graduation. I formed my own advisory group of superintendents and others and came up with a set of guidelines that I forwarded to Governor DeWine almost two weeks ago, but there has been no public or private discussion of these by anyone at the state level. Governor DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health feel it is acceptable to allow 300 people at a wedding and 592 people at Walmart at one time, but will not allow more than 10 people at a time at a high school graduation while observing social distancing.

Fort Jennings High School has 21 graduates and was planning to have a ceremony at a neighboring school that has a large gym and limited the number of guests. Licking High School had plans to have a ceremony at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, which holds almost 19,000, but cannot because of the order of the governor and ODH. It remains my opinion that a conventional high school graduation could and still can be done with proper distancing, if allowed by Governor DeWine and ODH. There are still plenty of high schools that have plans in June and July to have graduation, so there is hope for some.

I want to personally congratulate the high school graduating class of 2020 on all of their hard work and accomplishments. I also want to apologize for the failure of the State of Ohio for not allowing you to have a conventional graduation with social distancing, but more so for not even addressing the issue with an advisory group, which has been done with so many other aspects of opening up Ohio.

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