Move Sewickley Academy's 2020 Graduation Ceremony Outdoors

Move Sewickley Academy's 2020 Graduation Ceremony Outdoors

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Luke Tyson started this petition to Kolia O'Connor and

As Pennsylvania’s levels of COVID-19 continue to rise to all-time highs, it is imperative that Sewickley Academy move its Graduation Festivities on August 8, 2020 to an outdoor venue.

Since Sewickley Academy announced its tentative plans for the Graduation Ceremony, numerous questions have been raised about the relative safety of holding festivities in the Sewickley Academy Event Center compared to an outdoor setting. However, the administration has maintained that indoor Graduation is preferable because “it is not weather dependent,” and that “social distancing will still be practical indoors”. Such a priority might make sense were we not in the middle of an international pandemic, but given that the Sewickley Academy community of students, faculty, friends, and family includes a large number of older Americans, immunocompromised individuals, and other uniquely at-risk populations, we call on Sewickley Academy to prioritize the health of event attendees by holding Graduation outdoors.

First, of the Pittsburgh-area schools that chose to hold Graduation ceremonies in early to mid-June —— a period where Pennsylvania was reporting fewer than half the current number of new cases per day —— nearly all were held outside. The decision to hold Sewickley Academy’s Graduation indoors is uniquely reckless when there has been a significant local precedent of outdoor ceremonies by peer institutions throughout this summer. With access to two separate fields on campus, as well as the sprawling Nichols Field athletic complex just down the road, this flexibility is even more crucial now, as Pennsylvania and the country at-large appear to be on the brink of a second major wave of the virus.

Second, “social distancing” indoors is still less effective. Even in a perfect world, in which the venue would allow for every graduate and attendee to maintain at least six feet of distance at all times, studies indicate that infection rates indoors are almost 19 times higher than in open-air environments.  An analysis of 7,324 outbreaks of the virus found that only one happened outdoors.

There is an overwhelming trend of evidence unequivocally proving that outdoor gatherings are exponentially safer. We are grateful that Sewickley Academy has elected to continue with Graduation planning and find a way to celebrate the Class of 2020 in a unique set of international circumstances. However, with the safety of the community in mind, it is more important now than ever to prioritize safety, health, and accessibility by making the decision to hold festivities outdoors.

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