Despite not having graduation ceremonies in the traditional manner, many local schools will go ahead with their virtual and drive-by graduation plans.
Premier Doug Ford recently announced he wanted all grades to celebrate the end of the school year with in-person outdoor graduation ceremonies. However, many school boards, including the Lambton Kent and St. Clair Catholic boards, quickly said they’d stick with virtual ceremonies.
According to Lambton-Kent District School Board Director of Education John Howitt, graduation ceremonies for Grade 12 students receiving their diplomas and students in Grades 6 and 8 will be virtual, with most schools also planning a drive-by ceremony, if the weather cooperates.
Howitt added the other students not graduating will get together for a fun event when they return their school tech devices and pick up their personal belongings.
“Many of the homerooms will be coming together to have a soccer-baseball game or share a freezie or some sort of activity for up to 90 minutes,” added Howitt.
The Director of Education said the socially distanced activities would take place either June 24, 25, or 28 and will be scheduled to ensure there’s enough space in the schoolyard to hold those activities safely.
Howitt said this is a change from the traditional graduation ceremonies seen in the past, which are “not possible” because they involve hundreds of people and are not consistent with COVID-19 guidelines.
According to Deb Crawford, the St. Clair Catholic District School Board Director of Education, the school board has similar plans. She added graduation ceremonies would also be held online with some drive-up presentations and photos. She also added traditional graduations are out of the question this year because of the pandemic.
“We won’t be bringing all the grads in and all of their families. We can’t see that as being a safe option at this time,” said Crawford.
She added year-end activities are also being planned, and students and parents will be notified in the coming days.
The decisions the local school boards have made regarding graduation ceremonies have impressed Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Colby. The region’s top doctor said he is giving the school boards a lot of credit for keeping COVID-19 under control in the schools. He added their level of cooperation has been unmatched.
“Our colleagues in education have put the welfare of students and their safety and that of the community above all,” said Colby. “We’re so privileged to be able to work with such great people at all of the boards, and it’s been very fruitful in terms of the favourable numbers we’ve been able to achieve.”
In the past 15 months, Chatham-Kent Public Health has reported seven small COVID-19 outbreaks at different schools. All have been resolved.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News