The Trillium Lakelands Board of Education has decided to stand their ground on their decision to host virtual graduations for their Grade 8 and Grade 12 students.
Director of education Wes Hahn told trustees that the planning for these events has been going on for months, the provincial recommendation for in-person outdoor graduations came too late and that after discussions with the two local health units, the board was told in-person outdoor graduations would be unsafe.
On June 1, Premier Doug Ford announced that the provincial government would be altering regulations to allow for outdoor graduation ceremonies for Ontario students.
“There is no reason that in a year like no other, school boards can’t think outside the box and do all they can do safely to give Ontario students the send-off they rightfully deserve,” Ford said.
Ford continued on the subject suggesting that he “wanted students in all grades to have outdoor graduation ceremonies.”
Public backlash provincially to Ford’s statements was almost immediate, with the Ontario Principal’s Council, who represent almost all of Ontario’s school administrators, responded saying “outdoor ceremonies for all classes are not possible this late in the game.”
The OPC continued saying that schools have been planning virtual ceremonies for weeks and months, and “don’t have the time to pivot to an outdoor in-person gathering.”
A council press release made it clear that the premier’s requests with very little lead time was “both disrespectful and unrealistic to Ontario educators to expect them to organize events on this scale this late in the year.”
Sinead Fegan, communications officer for TLDSB, expanded on the director’s thoughts in her responses to e-mailed questions from The Advocate about the premier’s plan for graduations.
“TLDSB graduations will be virtual this year. Graduations take a lot of time and careful planning to put in place. TLDSB administrators have had school graduation plans in place for several weeks. In-person gatherings would mean multiple celebrations throughout the day (across the board) and with three weeks remaining in the school year there is not sufficient time to coordinate and organize these events outdoors.”
Fegan added that public health has advised the board that virtual celebrations are “the safest path forward.”
Hahn did hold out the possibility of graduates interacting with their teachers one more time when he told trustees that “staff are sad that goodbyes at graduation is not possible this year. We are hoping that when students drop off their tech there will be a chance for staff and students to say goodbye. More information about this will be forthcoming to parents soon.”