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OPINION: New State Guidance Allowing for Graduation Ceremonies is Positive Sign

By Wil Barclay


The gradual reopening of New York’s businesses and movement toward normalcy in daily activities has provided a lot of optimism and hope for our small-business owners, consumers, employees, and residents of New York. To that end, my colleagues in the minority conference and I are pleased to see graduating high-school students included in those reopening efforts. New guidance was recently announced that will allow in-person graduation ceremonies to take place. This is an important milestone and day for students, and it is critical that no group of individuals is overlooked as we continue to reopen our state.

 Earlier this month, members of our conference wrote a letter to Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, advocating for much-needed guidance on high-school graduations and other end-of-year school events. We are thrilled to report that our call for such guidance was heard and both indoor and outdoor ceremonies will be permitted with proper health and safety procedures in place. 

While certainly headed in the right direction, we are not out of the woods yet. COVID-19 is still a risk that is still prevalent across the state. However, with the increased availability of vaccines, and the widespread adoption of best practices like mask wearing and social distancing, we are able to begin a path back toward normalization. We must not needlessly restrict important social, recreational, and economic activities without good cause. New Yorkers have learned a great deal and have made incredible sacrifices to change their day-to-day lives. With the proper protocols in place, we can, and we will, be able to celebrate the great accomplishments of our graduating seniors. They earned this day, and they deserve to be able to enjoy it as others have in years past.

The challenges we have faced and the hardships we have endured over the past year have been extraordinary, to say the least. It is extremely important that, now, as the worst parts of lockdown and quarantine subside, we give our residents, students, families, and all those who were forced to forego important milestones and events a chance to experience as much as possible. Being able to walk across the stage, proudly, in front of loved ones is exactly the sort of thing we ought to be working toward making happen on a regular basis.                      

William (Will) A. Barclay, Republican, is the New York Assembly Minority Leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. Contact Barclay at