Nova Scotia

All Halifax-area public high schools expected to offer grad ceremonies

Public school students graduating from high school in the Halifax area should expect to have a slightly altered — but somewhat normal — graduation ceremony this month, despite COVID-19.

Graduation events are scheduled to take place June 18-30

On June 5, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health announced an exemption to the health protection order that would allow celebrations for graduating students this year. ( Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle/Getty)

Public school students graduating from high school in the Halifax area should expect to have a slightly altered — but somewhat normal — graduation ceremony this month, despite COVID-19.

"Schools are eager to recognize their graduates and are looking forward to doing so," Doug Hadley, a spokesperson for Halifax Regional Centre for Education told CBC's Mainstreet in an email on Wednesday.

The graduation events are scheduled to take place June 18-30.

On June 5, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health announced an exemption to the health protection order that would allow celebrations for graduating students this year.

Joe Morrison, the principal at Citadel High School in Halifax, said talks about graduation ceremonies and how they'll proceed have been going on since the pandemic hit. 

With all the restrictions, he said the school knew it couldn't have the traditional ceremony, but he said it was important the school somehow acknowledge the graduating class and its accomplishments.

This year's graduating class will experience, shall we say, a unique graduation. COVID-19 has curtailed the usual planning, but Citadel High School in Halifax isn't letting the occasion pass without a few good speeches. The CBC's Colleen Jones has the story of Makye Clayton, one of the eight valedictorians at that school. 1:43

"It kept coming back to the kids telling us that they wanted that cap and gown, that was really important to them," Morrison told Mainstreet.

Over the course of four days next week, Morrison said Citadel will hold "500 separate graduation ceremonies."

"So we're making sure we're acknowledging social distancing and paying attention to all the directives by the chief medical officer," he said.

Physical distancing measures

Students will come into the theatre with four family members, walk across the stage, have their photo taken by the on-site photographer and then pick up their diploma in a graduation package on their way out, Morrison said.

"We're going to use a table to self-distance while we're on stage and the diploma that's sitting there will not actually be theirs, it's a representation of what the diploma is ... that way there's nobody touching anything," he said.

A video of the ceremony will also be released, Morrison said.

Morrison said this year's graduating class have missed out on a lot of rituals grads usually go through, like prom, the grad breakfast and grad barbecue.

The most difficult part of the day, Morrison said, will be that people won't be able to hug, shake hands or even fist bump.

"It's going to be different, but it's going to be interesting," he said.

Drive-thru graduation

Stephanie Bird, principal of Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford, said she's excited about the two-day graduation ceremony her school has planned for grads next week.

"They want closure and I think doing this now rather than in the fall, it's the time to do it," Bird said.

She said it's not going to look like a traditional graduation, but she hopes they'll still have fun because there will be surprises. The 501 graduating students received their caps and gowns this week and they're expected to wear them.

There will be a drive-thru ceremony with 20 students parking in the parking lot at a time. One car will pull into the bus loop and the student will get out, hear their name and any awards or designations they've received, then walk across a crosswalk and get their diploma.

"It's a tradition and this tradition might look different," Bird said of this year's graduation ceremony. "They've spent 13 years in public school education and they've made friendships through all that time, they just want that celebration, that recognition."

'They are thrilled'

A school photographer will be there to capture the moment, Bird said, and the photos will be uploaded for the parents. 

Students are allowed a maximum of four guests. She said the parents could be driving up to the bus loop with their graduating child to take their own pictures and videos.

"The students have been so grateful because in their minds, they missed out on prom and they weren't expecting anything," Bird said. "And so they are thrilled that they have their caps and gowns, they were so excited here yesterday."

With files from CBC's Mainstreet Halifax

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