While graduation ceremonies won’t be the same as past years, staff at area schools will be holding both virtual and drive-through events over the next few weeks to ensure that the efforts of the the students who worked through a pandemic to get their diplomas are recognized.

At Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute, drive-through graduation ceremonies are being planned for Tuesday, June 23. Students will drive their vehicles through the school’s grounds individually at appointed times between 12:55 p.m. and 5:55 p.m. with each graduating student receiving a gift package, along with their diplomas and a graduation cap. The exact format for the event and times were still being worked out at press time.

“This is our first experience and I don’t have all of the logistics yet,” said Corina Wilson-Parisien, Ward 10 Trustee for the Upper Canada District School Board. “They’re still working out the kinks in the schedule because you can’t have more than 10 staff on the site at one time and everybody wants to be there, so they still have to work out all the individual time slots.”

In the event of persistent rain, the outdoor drive-through graduation ceremonies at VCI will be rescheduled to June 24. Parisien also noted that plans are afoot for students who receive their diplomas at the drive-through event this year to also have a graduation ceremony in 2021 on the same day but at a different time as next year’s graduates.

Just down the road, Grade 8 students at Pleasant Corners Public School (PCPS) will be attending their graduation ceremonies via a virtual Microsoft Teams ‘live’ graduation – also scheduled for June 23. The PCPS event will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will include diplomas and announcements of award winners live during the virtual ceremony. All of the families of graduating students will receive an invitation via email so that they can log into and participate in the ceremonies. The graduation will also be recorded and can be shared any time after the event.

Parisien noted many other schools throughout the UCDSB are holding similar ceremonies, including Russell Public School, which is also holding a Microsoft Teams event. Russell High School – which has been holding live-streamed classes for the past few months – will be holding a live-streamed event which students and parents can watch from home. Glengarry District High School is also in the process of finalizing plans for its graduation ceremonies.

Wilson-Parisien said while organizing the events is a lot of work, both the school board and school staff felt the virtual and drive-through ceremonies were necessary to acknowledge the efforts of the students who have worked extremely hard to keep up their studies during the pandemic.

“We as a board wanted to make sure the students who are graduating this year had a sense of accomplishment and a graduation, but hosting a room full of people we just couldn’t do,” Wilson-Parisien noted. “That’s why we’ve been able to come up with two different mechanisms.”

At Ecole Secondaire Publique Le Sommet in Hawkesbury, staff are planning to hold both virtual and drive-through events, with the CEPEO school board first holding a virtual event on Tuesday, June 16. The school itself will then host a drive-through graduation ceremony on the grounds on Thursday, June 18. In addition to their diplomas and caps, the graduating students from Le Sommet will also receive a commemorative face mask to mark their graduation ceremonies taking place during the pandemic.

Staff at Le Sommet are doing everything they can to ensure the graduation ceremonies are special, as they recognize that students have had to put in extra effort this year:

“It’s the same thing going on virtually that we would have done (at a normal ceremony),” said Le Sommet Principal Anne Laflamme. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

“I think with all that is happening we have forgotten about the teenagers – they were respectful (of social distancing rules) and they were working a lot,” Laflamme commented. “(The students) got used to the online (study), worked hard and they did a great job.”

The Review will be publishing photos of the Pleasant Corners Public School grads, the Le Sommet grads, the Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute grads and Grenville Elementary School grads in the June 24 print and e-edition.