The coronavirus pandemic has upended the traditional school year for students, parents and teachers. Graduation ceremonies have been no different. But the state is allowing some commencements to go forward, capping them at 150 people. 

In the Southern Tier community of Horseheads, Superintendent Tom Douglas thinks his high school can safely hold an event with more people in attendance.

What You Need To Know

  • School commencements are capped at 150 to prevent the spread of COVID

  • But some schools hope to hold larger gatherings, saying it can be done safely.

  • The state is starting to expand its gathering limits

"Our students need that culminating event to try to bring them together because after all they are our future,"he said. "They are the people who are going to deal with this head on but it's their one milestone that's being ripped away." 

His high school can hold a safe ceremony he says at its athletic field as 302 students receive their diplomas this month. 

"Most districts should be able to pull off socially distanced, safe, CDC guideline graduation," Douglas said. "If not, you have count fairgrounds which some districts are going to utilize or other large space venues."

Douglas is making a push to allow expanded graduation ceremonies -- especially in areas of the state that have lowered infection rates. 

"We all know we are all one New York," Douglas said. "But allow us the same parameters of data, 25 percent occupancy, and we'll make the governor proud."

The clock is ticking. Graduations can be held June 26. But Douglas estimates his district will have to hold several commencement ceremonies for all students, which will likely stretch into July. 

Some of those graduates will be heading to military service after July 4. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, has said the limits on gatherings are based on data, and meant to prevent the spread of coronavirus as New York has made strides on  containing the pandemic. 

"Those mass gatherings -- that's the vital area of vulnerability," he said on Sunday. 

But those gathering limits are continuing to ease. On Monday, Cuomo announced regions in phase 3 of the reopening can hold gatherings of up to 25 people.