Texas issues guidelines for hybrid, in-person high school graduation ceremonies

The Texas Education Agency on May 5 released a five-page document that outlines allowable procedures for graduation ceremonies. Ceremonies at indoor facilities, such as Leander ISD's 2019 ceremony, are not included in the state's guidelines on graduation events. (Courtesy Leander ISD)
The Texas Education Agency on May 5 released a five-page document that outlines allowable procedures for graduation ceremonies. Ceremonies at indoor facilities, such as Leander ISD's 2019 ceremony, are not included in the state's guidelines on graduation events. (Courtesy Leander ISD)

The Texas Education Agency on May 5 released a five-page document that outlines allowable procedures for graduation ceremonies. Ceremonies at indoor facilities, such as Leander ISD's 2019 ceremony, are not included in the state's guidelines on graduation events. (Courtesy Leander ISD)

Ahead of the graduation ceremonies for high school seniors across Texas, the state has provided guidelines for school districts on how to hold and conduct virtual and in-person ceremonies.

The Texas Education Agency on May 5 released a five-page document that outlines allowable procedures for graduation ceremonies.

Even as classrooms remain closed for instruction, the state will permit in-person graduation ceremonies with limitations. According to a TEA May 5 news release, rural counties may hold outdoor in-person ceremonies beginning May 15, and all Texas counties will be permitted to hold these ceremonies beginning June 1.

“Graduation ceremonies mark a major milestone for students and their families. All educators are committed first and foremost to ensuring the health and safety of our students, families and staff. By taking the necessary precautions developed by medical experts, we can ensure we appropriately honor our class of 2020 graduates while keeping everyone safe,” TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said in the May 5 news release.

To host an outdoor ceremony, the TEA mandates that school systems cap the number of participants—including students, families and staff—to a level that can be safely managed at the chosen venue. Further, participating students and family members must be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 ahead of the ceremony.


Social distancing guidelines must be followed at the ceremonies, and hand sanitizer or hand-washing stations must be made available at the entry of the venue, according to the TEA guidelines. Diplomas may not be handed from one person to another unless gloves and masks are worn at all times.

The TEA added these guidelines are subject to change as health conditions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic change.

The state agency provided alternative ceremony guidelines for school districts across the state in lieu of in-person ceremonies.

According to the state, hybrid ceremonies, which show compilations of students filmed individually or in small groups, are allowable beginning May 15 in all counties. Students will come in to receive their high school diploma one at a time and have a photo or video taken, according to the TEA.

Prior to these hybrid ceremonies, all students must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

The TEA stated in its May 5 guidelines that no rehearsals are permitted for any in-person ceremonies.

The state opened the door for school districts to hold vehicle ceremonies, in which students and their families wait in their cars while graduates are recognized one at a time, according to the TEA.

Up to five individuals may be in a car at one time for these ceremonies, and the state is requiring similar safety and screening measures for vehicle ceremonies as hybrid or outdoor ceremonies.

School districts may hold graduation ceremonies hosted virtually at any time, the TEA stated in its May 5 guidelines.

The TEA advises school districts to consult with legal counsel before arranging graduation ceremonies. School districts must then seek written approval from applicable local jurisdictions to hold the planned ceremony.

To read the full list of guidelines set forth by the state for graduation ceremonies, read the TEA document found here.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.