Catholic schools want to hold indoor graduations despite Public Health prohibition

Catholic school graduation.(PNC file photo)

The Department of Public Health and Social Services has directed Guam schools to not hold indoor graduations this year because of the pandemic.

But Guam’s Catholic schools are seeking an exemption from that policy.

One week ago, DPHSS issued a guidance memo that prohibited indoor, in-person graduation ceremonies.

According to the guidance, all graduation ceremonies must be held outdoors and attendees must be limited to school faculty and staff, graduates, and no more than four guests per graduate.

Attendance could also be further limited, based on whether the outdoor area selected for the graduation ceremony, was large enough to accommodate social distancing guidelines for invited guests.

Juan Flores, Superintendent of Catholic Education on Guam, told Newstalk K57’s Patti Arroyo that they’ve been meeting with Public Health to discuss the possibility of an exemption.

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“They provided us with an explanation behind the guidance, but they were also very receptive to some of our suggestions about how we could still abide by almost every single item in the graduation guidance except that we’d like to have it indoors,” Flores said.

Ultimately, it comes down to numbers.

With far fewer students in general than the Guam Public School System, the Catholic school system argues that it can maintain social distancing guidelines and implement other COVID safety measures even while holding graduation ceremonies indoors.

“We are paying attention to, not just occupancy, but also making sure that we’re still adhering to social distancing, we’re making sure people don’t congregate. It’s very difficult to guarantee that absolutely nobody’s going to be doing any hugging, but minimal contact among the people. Come in, do what needs to happen, and then leave. We’re actually sending protocols for each school today, to Public Health, and hopefully getting a response very quickly. Our first graduation is May 5th, for Father Duenas, so they know that there is a timeliness that’s a factor today,” Flores said.