KOLB: Graduations must be in person


This week, the governor announced that high schools will only be allowed to hold “drive thru” graduations this year. It’s yet another misguided policy. It’s a glaring example of executive overreach. Worst of all, it shows that the governor’s first instinct is always to promote a one-size-fits all policy that he controls instead of empowering local leaders to choose what works best for their regions and the communities they represent. My Assembly Republican colleagues and I responded by writing a letter to the governor urging him to change course.

Because of the costly sacrifices of millions of New Yorkers across the state, the COVID-19 curve has been flattened. In most regions upstate, infection rates remain extremely low. The governor’s own policies reflect this. We are in Phase II of his re-opening plan, a decision he delayed in order to consult with infectious disease experts. Clearly, they must believe the risk of the virus is diminishing. Offices are re-opening. More retailers are opening their doors. Patrons are supporting local restaurants by enjoying patio and outdoor dining.

All of these entities have agreed to promote social distancing and intensive cleaning regimens. Why can’t the state help school districts provide the same thing? Graduations could be held later in the summer and districts could limit the number of guests who attend.

 It’s important they happen in person, however, because it is such a profound milestone. Our seniors had the end of their academic careers turned upside down. No proms. No spring sports. No final plays, no last concerts. No opportunity to just be with friends, reflect on cherished years together and look toward bright futures that lay ahead.

These kids are going to go in many different directions. Some will join the workforce right away. Some will enlist in the military. Others will attend vocational schools and colleges all over the country. After such a chaotic year, they need to have that final chance to connect with each other and celebrate one another’s accomplishments. They deserve it, and their loving parents, family and friends do, too.

A drive-thru graduation? That’s not going to cut it.

Brian Kolb represents parts of the Finger Lakes in the New York State Assembly.

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