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Tired of waiting for state permission, Elbert County will allow graduations

Elbert County Commissioners said they reached out to the state about a variance twice but still do not have an answer.

DENVER — Elbert County, tired of waiting on the state, will move forward with high school graduations and church services without Colorado’s formal permission.

In a news release Wednesday, county commissioners said they asked on May 4 for a variance from the state that would allow Elbert County to get around a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people. Commissioners followed up on May 12, submitting extra documentation the state requested, the county said.

On May 20, without an answer, the county announced it will allow those gatherings.

“It is anticipated that the review process for the request for variance may take a considerable amount of time,” commissioners said in the release.

Their plan limits graduations to 50 people, in hopes of mitigating the spread of COVID-19. To participate, districts must make a plan and request permission from the county.

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“This is what we want. We're thrilled. Provide a memorable experience for our grads to be together,” said Douglas Bissonette, the superintendent of the Elizabeth School District, which is planning ceremonies for two schools.

Frontier High School has no more than 20 graduates. Families can watch the ceremony from parking spaces. The event is planned for May 29.

With 150 graduates, Elizabeth High School’s ceremonies will happen in shifts on June 6. The event will be limited to students and some staff members. Parents and families can watch via live stream.

In both cases, masks are required and students must sit nine feet apart. There will be no handshakes and no distribution of diploma covers.

“Other schools opted for virtual or drive by. We felt that fell short for us. We wanted to bring together all the students. The reaction has been very positive so far,” Bissonette said.

A county commissioner defended Elbert County’s decision saying it is in a unique position for these ceremonies because the case count is low, and this is a rural area. According to the state, Elbert county has 48 reported cases of COVID-19 and two deaths.

Regarding church services, Elbert’s health department told churches to come up with a plan to mitigate the spread of the disease. After, they can open with precautions in place.

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