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It's time for our Grade 12 students to put on their caps and gowns and walk across the stage to receive their diplomas! And while graduation ceremonies look different due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions, it's still important that we celebrate this life milestone, while following health and safety protocols.
Schools and staff have gone the extra mile to ensure this year's grad ceremonies are special, coming up with creative ways to celebrate in light of ongoing restrictions from the pandemic.
"We wanted to make sure there was at least one thing they had that they could remember and hang their hat on," said Earl Marriott Secondary principal Claudine Davies. "These moments are so important – they're a marker of accomplishment in finishing school and there has to be something there for our students. We want to celebrate them."
EMS held their graduation ceremonies at Peace Portal Alliance Church, bringing students through the church in their cohorts. Provincial guidelines allow for grad ceremonies that are limited to cohorts (maximum 120 students), along with the fewest number of additional people required to run the ceremony, such as organizers, photographers and officiants.
The ceremonies were livestreamed to parents and relatives watching outside and at home, and the church was decorated with red carpets, photo stations, window paintings and chalk phrases, guiding students on a circuit from the stage to fun surprises after they accepted their diplomas.
"The photographer took a professional photo of them, and then the church had built a selfie station and it was all glittery with lights, almost like a picture wall," said Davies. "They went onto another stage and got their photo taken as they threw their hat in the air, and walked upstairs to where five teachers were tearing and clapping and giving congratulations, and then they rejoin their parents at the end.
"It was just a fun thing. Whatever we could think of, we threw in there."
This year, the district has more than 6,000 grads across 20 secondary schools and five learning centres, with different schools putting their own twist on grad ceremonies.
École Salish Secondary is taking advantage of the great outdoors and its large parking lot, holding drive-thru ceremonies in which students will exit their family vehicle and walk on a red carpet, with parents getting front-row seats without setting foot out of the car.
Fleetwood Park Secondary is hosting its ceremony in the gym, with students and their families entering one at a time, with such features as baby photos and a selfie wall along the way.
All schools developed individual graduation plans consistent with the PHO Gathering and Events Order and the K-12 Health & Safety Guidelines to offer their ceremonies. For more information, see the provincial government's COVID-19 Planning Resource for Graduations.
To our principals, vice-principals, teachers and other school-based staff – thank you for your tireless efforts to ensure this year's commencement ceremonies are safe celebrations for each of our grads.
And to our grads – CONGRATULATIONS! You made it! You have come so far to reach this achievement and we wish to recognize you for your hard work and dedication. This is your moment, bask in it.