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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota banned large-scale high school graduation ceremonies on Friday to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and encouraged schools to hold online ceremonies instead.

The Minnesota Department of Education issued guidance saying indoor graduations and ceremonies held outside in stadiums and on football fields are not permitted. Such gatherings are not considered safe at any size, it said.

“We know how much students in the class of 2020 have sacrificed this year, and how disappointing it is not to participate in the milestones or traditions they had imagined,” the notice said. “These guidelines were made with public health protection in mind, and adhering to them is how we will both celebrate our students and move safely through this challenge together.”

While some schools have discussed delaying graduation ceremonies until later to allow for more traditional events, the department said it can’t offer a timeline for when public health guidance will be changed to allow large gatherings.

The guidance also lists steps for schools to take if they decide to host celebrations such as car parades or parking lot ceremonies. It said each household should be in a separate car, attendees should stay in their cars and events should be brief.

Bloomington Public Schools was considering options for a closed graduation ceremony at the district’s football stadium, and had weekends set aside in June and July. The district sent the following message to parents last week, following the Department of Education’s announcement.

“By now you may have heard that the Minnesota Department of Education has provided guidance that indoor graduations and ceremonies held outside in stadiums are not permitted. Further, the state cannot offer a timeline for when public health guidance will be changed to accommodate large gatherings. This guidance obviously puts a damper on our plans.

“We know how hard this spring has been on you, and how hard this time continues to be as one experience after another is taken from you.

“While we don’t know exactly how we will proceed from here, our team will work quickly, along with student leaders and parent representatives to give a fitting farewell that follow the guidelines put forth from the state. Look for more information to come soon.”

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