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Friends and family members will now be able to celebrate their 2021 graduates in person.
Keene State College announced on May 18 that each student who is attending Commencement on May 29 may bring up to two guests to join the ceremony in person on Fiske Quad. Masks will be required for all attendees, even for those who are fully vaccinated. In order to be granted access to the ceremony, guests will need proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test result from a test taken on May 24 or later or proof of being fully vaccinated for COVID-19. You are fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or the single-dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Another new change to the ceremony is that the spacing requirement on the quad has been diminished from six feet to three feet.
Keene State President Melinda Treadwell said the updated policies for Commencement come from the CDC relaxing its COVID-19 guidelines. The CDC recently announced that fully vaccinated individuals can now not wear a mask in most public settings.
President Treadwell said the college’s COVID-19 risk management team recommended the spacing for commencement be changed to three-feet spacing. This recommendation came because the event will be hosted outside with masked individuals who will have been required to present a negative PCR test or show proof of being fully vaccinated. Treadwell added that with the spacing requirement now smaller, the group determined they would be able to welcome guests.
“Our protocols have been adequate, case rights are seeming to stabilize for us again, there are no zero-risk options, but the benefit to the graduating class is so high for them to have some loved ones with them,” Treadwell said. “This is a big event, I wish we could invite everybody as we normally can. We just can’t do that but we will invite two for every grad and I hope the grads see that as us trying to do what we can.”
“I think it’s great,” said graduating senior Samantha Witham. “I’m excited, my parents actually get to be there.” Witham said she has little concerns for safety due to both of her parents being fully vaccinated and the event being hosted outside. “I mean obviously you can’t have everybody there but I’m only graduating once.”
Commencement Coordinator Barbara Preston also said she has little concern about safety for the ceremony.
“Given the relaxation of the CDC requirements and that it’s outside and that it’s masked, I have less concern about that because everyone will have a negative PCR test or will be fully vaccinated,” Preston said. “I’m probably more concerned when I’m walking through the supermarket and people aren’t masked and you don’t know why. We still have a lot of precautions in place so I think we’ve got the confidence of the COVID team that this is a safe environment for everyone.”
Preston added that she has conducted continuous outreach to ask graduates if they will be attending commencement in person, but because of the previous restrictions on guests, many did not respond. “I am very fearful of someone wanting to show up on Saturday morning and not being able to be here and they have their parents with them,” Preston said. She also said that following the announcement to allow two guests per graduate, she has gotten more and more responses from graduates declaring their attendance. Preston said the deadline to announce attendance is Monday, May 24 by 5 p.m..
Preston added that normally during this time, they would be putting together the final pieces of the ceremony together, but the sudden changes have set them back. “We are still doing a lot of logistics at this point,” Preston said. “There’s a whole offshoot of people doing work just figuring out how to allow guests on campus and serve them well.
So we’re in a much different spot as far as workflow as we would in a normal commencement year.”
Preston said guests will be cleared for the commencement in the Winchester parking lot prior to the ceremony. Guests will be given a bracelet allowing them access and will board a bus to be taken to campus. The entry point for guests will be between the Science Center and the Student Center.
“This is a milestone event so having a day that they can all celebrate safely is something we hadn’t anticipated we would be able to do last fall or in January,” Preston said.
On May 29, the campus will be open only for those who will be attending commencement. The campus will reopen at 5 p.m..
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