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Department of Education Allows for Limited In-Person Commencement Events for Graduating Class of 2021

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The Hawaiʻi State Department of Education released guidelines for limited in-person high school commencement events for 2021. High School Graduation. Maui Now Stock Photo

The Hawaiʻi State Department of Education today released guidelines to allow for limited, in-person school commencement and transition ceremonies that ensure the health and safety of students, staff and families.

On Jan. 11, the Department announced the cancellation of all large, in-person social gatherings for the remainder of the school year. Commencement ceremonies were excluded from that announcement while the Department collaborated with partner agencies, Gov. David Ige’s office, county mayors and schools on safe and viable in-person and virtual options to honor and celebrate the graduating class of 2021.

“Our school leaders have shown they are able to implement and enforce the protocols that have kept our staff and students safe,” Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto said.  “While we cannot prevent exposure to COVID-19, the Department has systems in place to immediately address cases and has avoided transmission of the virus at HIDOE facilities to date.”


“While the allowable modified ceremonies will not look like pre-pandemic celebrations, they will allow additional flexibility for our schools beyond virtual options in bringing our graduates together for this momentous occasion.”

In addition to standard school health and safety protocols, commencement events must adhere to guidelines that include:

  • The ceremony must be held outdoors or in a venue with adequate ventilation. Third-party venues are allowed.
  • Graduates will be allowed to bring a maximum of two members from their household. No additional guests will be allowed. Schools also have the authority to reduce this number based on venue restrictions and ceremony formats. 
  • Larger schools that may experience difficulties in hosting a safe, in-person ceremony are encouraged to consider alternative options such as a blend of in-person and virtual ceremonies, staggered drive-through ceremonies or drive-in formats. 

The full list of guidelines can be viewed here.


“Mahalo to our school leaders, students and staff who have been working tirelessly to plan creative and innovative ways to make the commencement ceremonies for our 2021 graduates special,” Kishimoto added. “This has truly been a unique school year and I look forward to safely celebrating our graduates on this significant milestone.”

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