Superintendent’s letter to 2020 graduating students and their families

May 7, 2020 8:16 AM

Dear graduating class of 2020 and families,

One of the most common questions asked by our Grade 12 students since the suspension of in-class instruction is what will happen with graduation ceremonies this year. Understandably, Grade 12 students have been worried that they will miss out on this key milestone. I am writing to share with you the details of how the current conditions will affect the graduation ceremonies originally planned for late May and June 2020.

There are two precautionary measures that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has put in place to ensure the continued safety of British Columbians that have the greatest impact on graduation ceremonies: the requirement for physical distancing and significant limitations on the size of gatherings. Unfortunately, Dr. Henry has recently advised that these two measures are unlikely to be lifted any time soon. For this reason, we are compelled to cancel the two most important traditional end-of-year graduation events: graduation dinner/dance and dry grad.

I know that while this news may not come as a complete surprise, it is still deeply disappointing. I hope you will understand, however, that we must continue to prioritize the safety of our students, families, staff and community.

While some of our schools are receiving questions about whether these ceremonies can be pushed into the next school year, the very uncertain nature of these times prevents us from making any such commitments. We must focus instead on ensuring that we provide our graduating students with the most thoughtful and fulsome virtual ceremonies possible.

We all cherish the ceremony and celebrations related to graduation. Students, families, school staff and trustees all look forward to that special, defining moment when our graduating students formally complete their public education journey and receive their well-earned acknowledgement. These ceremonies are our final opportunity to celebrate both the journey and the achievements of our graduates before they start the next chapter of their lives. All of the usual preparations have looked different during this pandemic, however. This year, there is an urgent need to balance year-end ceremonies and celebrations with a vigilant regard for the safety of our graduating class, their families and supporters.

As Dr. Henry noted in her recent press briefing, secondary school staffs across the province are hard at work on the logistics of virtual commencement ceremonies that honour students and celebrate their accomplishments. Our district leaders and secondary staff have been working hard to identify ways to meet this important objective in our school district. We are committed to working with families to make this virtual event memorable for every student.

Each high school is preparing for a virtual commencement celebration that will be posted to the school district Helix video server. Your school will provide you with detailed information about what the ceremonies will look like, including pertinent details on refunds, by May 15, 2020, so that your family/household can organize a small and safe celebration for your graduating student. If you have further questions after you receive this information, you should feel free to contact your school principal.

Please do not let the disappointment of our current challenging circumstances eclipse your child’s amazing achievement. I am so proud of all our graduating students! I want to extend my sincere congratulations to each and every graduate for their hard work, their resilience and their commitment. I also want to acknowledge the important and much-needed support our graduates are receiving from their families, their friends, and their community.

Our Grade 12 students are moving forward from public school in a time like no other. Their graduating class will be remembered as one that met the challenges of a pandemic that tested not only our country but also the world. They will be remembered for their tenaciousness and perseverance in the face of a truly unique challenge.

In the coming weeks, I look forward to working with our staff, parents and community to support and honour our graduating class of 2020 as we prepare to gather online for memorable, celebratory and safe graduation ceremonies. We will celebrate virtually, “together but apart.”


Sylvia Russell

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