The extended school closures announced in mid-May and the importance of following physical distancing and crowd limit guidelines meant that Algoma District School Board had to make difficult decisions on operational items, including elementary and secondary graduation activities. In consultation with the District Public Health Units and coterminous Boards, it was determined that face-to-face events, like graduations, would not be possible.
In response to the emergency health orders, ADSB staff were tasked with thinking of alternate recognitions and celebrations for their Grade 8 and Grade 12 graduates. School administration and staff took up the challenge with enthusiasm, creativity and a strong desire to honour the Graduates of 2020 which in ADSB numbered close to 1500.
Many schools celebrated by hosting a Virtual Grad while others created Video Recorded Graduations. Many included recorded messages from guest speakers, class Valedictorians, school staff and administration along with special student montages and songs. All graduates received a special drop-off by a school staff member or via a grad parade, while respecting physical distancing protocols. The grad delivery included things such as lawn signs, certificates, school memorabilia and other special treats which were added touches from schools as their way of acknowledging this unique graduating year. One school provided graduates with customized face masks with the school logo. One Valedictorian traveled to all the townships and communities where his fellow classmates live to record segments of his Valedictorian address – as a reminder that “we may be apart but we are all in this together”.
The staff visits were occasions in which students were recognized in a very personalized way along with family members who were able to join them. All school staff were able to take part in celebrating the schools’ graduates, either by joining in the drop-offs, grad parade or by sharing a celebratory message online.
Parents and students alike shared how they appreciated the time taken by school staff to individually recognize each graduate. Many families shared that they enjoyed celebrating from the comfort of their own homes, recognizing that older family members were better able to see and hear. Still others spoke of how the unique celebrations recognized and honoured all graduates in a more personal manner. Many commented on how it felt like a community-wide celebration, as neighbours saw the lawn signs announcing a ‘2020 Grad lives here’ and joined in the acknowledgement with a wave or honking horn during the drop-offs and grad parades.
The positive feedback and unique features of this year’s graduations will shape future celebrations as ADSB schools look at incorporating elements that proved successful this year.