School board postpones high school graduation for a YEAR — until June 2021

Tagwi Secondary School in North Stormont. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

BROCKVILLE — The class of 2019-2020 won’t don cap and gown for over a year, as the Upper Canada District School Board has postponed high school graduation ceremonies until June 2021.

The UCDSB made the whopping 13-month delay known to parents of the involved students today.

“Given the circumstances and the uncertainties of this global pandemic, and in consultation with public health authorities, the Upper Canada District School Board has no option but to postpone June 2020 graduation ceremonies at all of our secondary schools and at our TR Leger School of Adult, Alternative and Continuing Education until June 2021,” says the letter signed by Board Chair John McAllister and Director of Education Stephen Silwa.

A copy of the missive was provided to NVN by a parent of a graduating high school student.

Students who have earned a diploma are still recognized as graduates, the letter points out, noting the decision to postpone until next year was not made lightly. “Doing so will allow our schools the greatest opportunity to plan and honour our graduates when we can be more certain that school buildings will be fully operational, and the greatest risk of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. The UCDSB is following the example of other school boards and post-secondary institutions that have already decided to postpone their graduation events.”

Kenda te Plate of Finch, whose daughter finishes high school at Tagwi this year, was not happy at the news.

“They never even asked our opinion,” she said. “There was absolutely no consultation by any means with people who are directly involved.”

te Plate said she took part in an online brainstorming session Tuesday with teachers and the parent council — with “plenty of ideas” generated for a safe graduation with an eye to sharing them with Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis and the Board.

“There was absolutely no discussions held with parent councils on this decision. How dare they.”

te Plate said the ideas for holding an earlier graduation included staging the event this spring in a larger space to accommodate physical distancing — or on Thanksgiving weekend, a traditional graduation time for some Ontario high schools until recently.

“The Minister of Education just stated yesterday he wanted to see something done for these students. I don’t think moving it to June 2021 was on his radar,” she opined.

See the text of the UCDSB letter below.

May 13, 2020

Dear UCDSB Families and Grade 12 Graduating Students,

As you may be aware, the Minister of Education is encouraging school boards to honour student achievement for the 2020 school year and have graduation ceremonies and celebrations when it is safe to do so. We support this decision and whole-heartedly agree about the importance of honouring and recognizing the incredible accomplishments of our graduating students.

Given the circumstances and the uncertainties of this global pandemic, and in consultation with public health authorities, the Upper Canada District School Board has no option but to postpone June 2020 graduation ceremonies at all of our secondary schools and at our TR Leger School of Adult, Alternative and Continuing Education until June 2021.

Please know that moving the ceremonies to June 2021 will not impact the ability of our students to actually graduate from high school if they have met the diploma program requirements. In light of this decision, many of our secondary schools are already exploring a wide range of alternative and suitable ways to celebrate and send off our graduating class of 2020 this spring.

We did not make the decision to postpone graduation ceremonies until June 2021 lightly. Doing so will allow our schools the greatest opportunity to plan and honour our graduates when we can be more certain that school buildings will be fully operational, and the greatest risk of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. The UCDSB is following the example of other school boards and post-secondary institutions that have already decided to postpone their graduation events.

Each school’s Graduation Committee will decide how they will honour their graduating class of 2020 at that time, be it a stand-alone ceremony or combined with the graduating class of 2021. Schools will stay in touch with their students and families to keep them updated about this important event. Several schools have already initiated these conversations around the annual senior prom which — depending on the specific secondary school — may have a link to the annual graduation exercise. 

Our graduates have worked hard to achieve their high school diploma and all of us are committed to ensuring they have the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments with family and friends at a commencement ceremony.

We continue to wish all of you good health and to stay safe during the unusual times of this pandemic.

Sincerely,

John McAllister
Chair of the Board
Upper Canada District School Board

Stephen Sliwa
Director of Education
Upper Canada District School Board

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