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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Murphy OKs outdoor graduations

Details to come at day’s COVID-19 briefing

By Nikita Biryukov, May 26 2020 10:19 am

This story was updated at 12:54 p.m.

Gov. Phil Murphy is giving schools the green light to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies.

“I am proud to say that you will have the opportunity to join with your classmates and families to celebrate your graduation,” Murphy said during Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing.

The governor is allowing schools and universities in the state to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies starting July 6 under a set of yet-to-be announced social distancing measures and other restrictions.

Officials within the Department of Education and those serving under Higher Education Secretary Zakiya Smith-Ellis will issue guidance on the graduations Wednesday, Murphy said.

“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,” the governor said.

It’s not yet clear what capacity limits will be imposed on the graduation ceremonies. Currently outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 persons, though it’s possible the limit will be raised between now and July.

The guidance will allow for ceremonies held by middle schools, high schools and colleges in New Jersey.

Murphy has faced mounting pressure to move on graduation ceremonies over the past week.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-Westfield) and others intensified calls for Murphy to allow outdoor graduation ceremonies over the past week.

The governor’s move was telegraphed in advance — he said on Friday his office would be making an announcement on the issue after the Memorial Day weekend.

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

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