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School boards to go with ‘virtual graduation’ ceremonies

Province extends COVID-19 clampdown for rest of school year; details of virtual graduation, summer school to be released by local school boards soon

Students graduating from Grade 8 and Grade 12 in June will have to settle for virtual graduations after the Ontario government announced Tuesday it is keeping Ontario’s elementary and secondary schools closed for the remainder of the current 2019-2020 school year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Elementary and secondary schools across Ontario were initially shut down by the government for a two week period in March, that shutdown extended more than once before Tuesday’s announcement.

The provincial government has prohibited gatherings of more than five people as part of its COVID-19 measures.

Students have been carrying on with their studies online since April.

“After much deliberation and with full consideration for what the fall might bring, the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board has made the difficult decision to celebrate most Grade 8 and 12 graduations virtually this June,” stated Rose Burton Spohn, H-SCDSB director of education, in a school board update for parents.

Details of virtual graduations are being worked out.

“Within the foreseeable future, principals and vice-principals will provide additional information specific to their schools, including details related to dates and times of virtual celebrations, requirements for students, and reimbursements for families,” Burton Spohn wrote.  

“Virtual graduations will permit all students and staff, particularly those leaving their schools, our school system, and/or their community to experience some closure,” Burton Spohn wrote.

The H-SCDSB director of education stated there may be a limited number of students permitted to gather for “in-person alternatives” in some smaller schools outside of Sault Ste. Marie if social distancing rules are eased and followed.

“We acknowledge how disappointing this news will be to many students and their families,” Burton Spohn wrote.

Meanwhile, online learning will continue at home for students of all Ontario school boards for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. 

The Ontario government said students who were headed for graduation before the COVID-19 shutdown of schools will receive report cards.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Tuesday a summer learning program will be put in place for “credit recovery” for students in Grades 9 to 12, also giving Grade 8 students a chance to work ahead.

“Our board is continuing to work on determining what courses / programming will be offered in summer school, and how that programming might be provided (i.e., in person or virtual). When more information becomes available, we will communicate it to you,” Burton Spohn wrote in the H-SCDSB update to parents. 

“We’ll be providing more information as plans are determined around graduations and summer learning,” wrote Fran Walsh, ADSB communications officer, in an email to SooToday.

Education Minister Lecce said the province will reveal details of how education will look in the 2020-2021 school year before the current school year ends in June.