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Bill to exempt high school graduations from pandemic orders passes in the state senate

Posted at 6:29 AM, May 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-08 06:43:56-04

LANSING, Mich. — Graduation season is back again. The class of 2021 will be able to have commencement ceremonies this year as COVID-19 cases continue to decline across the state but what those ceremonies will look like is stirring up some debate.

“At this point this body, according to some, elections are rigged. The gov. Is killing nursing home patients, and now we’re opposed to graduation ceremonies,” State Sen. Curtis Hertel of East Lansing said Wednesday after Republican State Senator Jim Runestad proposed Senate Bill 335 which would exempt commencement ceremonies from statewide pandemic orders.

“This is a very diverse state, you have a very small, heavily concentrated urban districts, sprawling rural districts, there's all kinds of metrics, and a one size fits all that they don't understand, doesn't make sense for these kids and these families. This allows them to safely make their own decisions,” Runestad said.

Republican State Senator Jim Runestad proposed Senate Bill 335

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says under the latest restrictions ceremonies are allowed with masks and physical distancing but she hasn’t commented on this most recent proposal.

MI Vacc to Normal Challenge

Those who oppose the bill say removing all state regulations from these ceremonies could be dangerous. Supporters say schools can be trusted to keep their communities safe.

The people here, the schools, the school districts, these teachers, these parents, they have the same concerns of safety.

“The people here, the schools, the school districts, these teachers, these parents, they have the same concerns of safety. Nobody wants to make an unsafe environment that no one's going to attend. They want to do something that's safe,” Runestad said.

The Lansing School District says they’re erring on the side of caution when it comes to commencement. This year’s celebration of Lansing seniors will be a mix of last year’s virtual diploma ceremony and outdoor, in-person celebrations.

After months of looking into different options, Deputy Superintendent Delsa Chapman and other district officials worked with health regulators to make a final decision.

Lansing School District Deputy Superintendent Delsa Chapman

“We did consult with our COVID coordination team for the Lansing School District and it was determined that we would this year provide the same ceremony. We will include more students and the program will be a little different,” Chapman said.

The district will be streaming the June 6 ceremony from its Youtube channel.

“The Lansing Promise will be providing a celebration on the lawn of the Capitol where our graduates and their families can leave the diploma ceremony, head to the Capitol for food, fun, activities,” Chapman said.

The fast-tracked proposal was passed through the senate and could find its way to Whitmer’s desk as soon as Tuesday according to Runestad.

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Elle Meyers

Elle Meyers

6:12 PM, Apr 12, 2021

State Capitol

Neighborhood Reporter

Elle Meyers

FOX 47 News Neighborhood Newsletter