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It’s official. No outdoor ceremonies, but grads can pick up diplomas curbside with photo opps

Public health concerns over COVID come first, school boards say
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After students and parents in the Algoma district wondered whether schools would be holding outdoor graduation ceremonies for Grade 8 and Grade 12 students while keeping COVID-19 health precautions in mind, the region’s four school boards have issued a joint statement indicating grads will be able to pick up their diplomas in a curbside pickup format.

All graduation ceremonies will stay virtual. 

“Understandably, we know that not returning to in-person learning was most disappointing for our graduates, as was the case last year, too,” said Lucia Reece, Algoma District School Board (ADSB) director of education in an email.

“In consultation with Public Health, we must advise that the safest option for graduations continues to be virtual ceremonies. While there will be no large outdoor ceremonies, we are, again, committed to providing a celebration for graduates that may have a virtual component as well as a curb-side pick-up of the diploma and photo opportunity. School personnel will be reaching out with specific information and accommodations will be made for students who cannot participate in curb-side pick-up. We trust you understand the need for us to maintain the safety of all and to respect public safety,” Reece stated.

Premier Doug Ford announced June 3 his government is encouraging schools to hold safe, COVID-conscious outdoor grad ceremonies for all grades even as he also announced that classes would not go back to in person instruction until September due to COVID-19.

But local boards are not going that route, putting safety first for students, parents, teachers and staff.

As step one of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen plan begins today, the ADSB, Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board (HSCDSB), the Conseil Scolaire Catholique Nouvelon (CSCNO) and Conseil Scolaire Public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario (CSPGNO) have announced “we all wish times were different, however it is imperative that the health and safety of students, staff, their families and the public be maintained.”

“Through these extraordinary times, virtual ceremonies or contactless delivery/pick-up of diplomas provides the safest options in protecting students, parents and staff against the spread of COVID-19.”

Each board will start to invite students in Grades 8 and 12 to pick up their diplomas and participate in a photo opportunity at designated times.

More details related to that process will be given to students and parents by each specific school.

“We acknowledge the difficulties of not being able to celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s graduates in person,” the four school boards said.

Though COVID-19 vaccination rates are on the upswing and COVID-19 cases are apparently decreasing, the boards are still advising families to follow public health guidelines by not holding personal parties, celebrations and ceremonies that will attract large groups (outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people without masks or social distancing, or holding indoor gatherings with anyone you do not live with, for example).

“We acknowledge the very difficult situation in which we all find ourselves in and know that everyone’s safety must remain our top priority,” the four boards said.

“Some 400 students from the Conseil Scolaire Catholique Nouvelon’s 10 secondary schools will be celebrated on June 16, 17, 22, 24, 28 and 29,” a release from that school board states.

To protect the health and wellbeing of students and staff, the secondary schools will honour the board’s Grade 12 graduates through a virtual graduation ceremony. 

The CSCNO’s secondary schools will help to make the occasion an enjoyable one for their grads, despite COVID restrictions, with the presentation of certificates of merit, graduation gowns and mortars and other gestures of appreciation to students in drive-through format.

Sault and area CSCNO high schools’ virtual graduation dates and times include:

  • Ecole secondaire catholique Jeunesse-Nord (Blind River), Wednesday June 16 at 6 p.m.
  • Ecole secondaire catholique La Renaissance (Espanola), Thursday June 24 at 7 p.m.
  • Ecole secondaire Saint-Joseph (Wawa), Thursday June 24 at 7 p.m.
  • Ecole secondaire École Notre-Dame-Du-Sault (Sault Ste. Marie), Tuesday June 29 at 6:30 p.m.   

Meanwhile, the ADSB has also issued a notice to parents with information regarding arrangements for curbside retrieval of students’ personal belongings at schools as the school year draws to a close and opportunities for visits to teachers and grad photos (where possible).

“We will be gathering school-issued computers from elementary students transitioning to another school (such as those going to a Grade 7 and 8 program or to high school, as well as any students leaving the ADSB system) and students in Grade 12. All other students will keep their devices over the summer,” the ADSB said.

“We have come so far in our race against the pandemic, let’s remain united in our push to the finish line, knowing that September can be a return to in-person learning and more activities,” the board stated in its note to students and parents.