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Citing timing restraints and safety, TLDSB decides to keep graduations virtual

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES/DURHAM: The Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) has opted not to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies this year, despite Premier Doug Ford encouraging boards to do so.

“After careful consideration and consultation with local public health, Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) has determined graduations will remain virtual for the 2020-2021 school year. The Ontario government announced, on June 1st, schools would remain closed for the rest of this school year, but would allow school boards to invite graduating elementary and secondary students to return to school for a short, outdoor celebration, where physical distancing is possible. TLDSB schools have been working hard over the past several weeks to organize virtual graduation ceremonies, to celebrate and honour graduates in a way [which] maintains current health and safety protocols and restrictions. While the Ministry of Education advised that school boards could consider gathering outside in class cohort groups, the issue of time for planning and equity of opportunity continues to be problematic,” read a statement from the local school board.

Director of Education Wes Hahn told trustees, at a meeting on Tuesday, June 8th, the message the board was hearing from local health units, prior to the provincial government’s announcement, was “it would not be safe” to hold in-person graduations.

However, school board communications noted, there might be a chance for students to see school staff and friends from their cohort, when they drop off their devices and pick up their personal belongings from the school. “This will be a chance for parents/guardians to take photographs of their graduate, collect the graduation diploma, possibly speak with cohort friends and say goodbye to staff,” a press release explained.

Meanwhile, the Durham District School Board also released a statement regarding the possibility of in-person graduations.

“Schools have been planning their virtual graduation ceremonies for many months. Given the recent relaxation of some safety protocols, schools have the option to supplement those virtual graduations with an outdoor, in-person acknowledgement. This may take the form of graduating students participating in a ‘drive/walk through’ ceremony, with scheduled time slots for each graduate and strict health and safety protocols in place, based on direction from the Durham Region Health Department. We understand how important graduation ceremonies are, and want you to know, your school will share more information on their plans directly with the families of graduating students. School staff [members] are striving to provide engaging opportunities, [to] close off this tumultuous year with a deep appreciation for all [the] students have experienced. Secondary schools with a fall commencement will continue their planning for an event in the fall, in line with public health guidance at that time,” the statement, signed by education director Norah Marsh, read. “It is important for all of us to recognize, with a growing percentage of cases being the more transmissible Delta variant, along with the fact one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine may only provide reduced protection, we need to continue to take all measures necessary to ensure the safety of students, families and staff.”

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