Ottawa

No pomp or ceremony for class of 2020, only uncertainty

Grade 12 students in Ottawa are grappling with the realization that their high school classroom experience is over and their immediate future uncertain thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Graduating high school students staring at a precarious future thanks to pandemic

Rami Arab, a graduate at Saint Francis Xavier High School, hopes real classrooms open again by the fall when he starts post-secondary school. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Grade 12 students in Ottawa are grappling with the realization that their high school classroom experience is over and their immediate future uncertain thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

"For a lot of us this is like closure to our childhood," said Amina El Sharif from Earl of March Secondary School's graduating class.

"To say March 13 was our last day is kind of bitter."

El Sharif is planning to go to Carleton next year. She said her class has learned they need to make the best of difficult situations.

"Life is like this, you're not going to necessarily have everything go your way."

Planning a 'family reunion'

Carter Sicard from Holy Trinity Catholic High School said he had similar hopes to be back in class for the last weeks of the school year — though he understands the importance of public health.

Instead, he's hoping to organize some kind of graduation celebration, even if it ends up being more like a "family reunion."

"It is a tough situation to be in," Sicard said.

"We're an interesting class. The class of 2020 was born just after 9/11 and we're graduating in the year of COVID-19, where obviously things are changing once again."

The class of 2020 was born just after 9/11 and we're graduating in the year of COVID-19.- Carter Sicard, Holy Trinity Catholic High School

He said he still plans to pursue a business degree at the University of Ottawa, though he likely won't move into residence.

In the meantime, he's applied for the the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) because his plans to work this summer dried up.

Post-secondary online classes

Twins Melanie and Sydney Carruthers are graduating from John McCrae Secondary School and said what graduation and prom will look like are up in the air.

"We both bought prom dresses and now we're waiting to see if we'll ever get to wear them," Sydney said.

Melanie and Sydney Carruthers are twins who are graduating from John McCrae Secondary School. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board said it's consulting on a plan for grads and proms and got feedback from more than 1,000 students.

In the fall, Sydney is planning to go into health sciences at Algonquin College but said continuing with online learning is a struggle.

"It's got me thinking about whether I'm going to go through with my semester in college", Sydney said.

Melanie plans to study environmental sciences at Carleton University.

"The whole picture of what it's supposed to be like is changing now. Since there's talk about it being online, we won't have the traditional way of just going and meeting people in person on campus," Melanie said.

School pride lawn signs

The Ottawa Catholic School Board said graduation ceremonies are being planned for the fall and, in the meantime, schools are being encouraged to have creative and safe celebrations — like signs and virtual meet-ups.

Graduates from Saint Francis Xavier High School in Riverside South received lawn signs on Wednesday to celebrate their achievement.

"It's a recognition that we can't do things the way we normally do. It demonstrates that we are looking for alternatives," said Sean Kelly, the school's principal.

WATCH: Lawn signs for grads at one Ottawa school

Sean Kelly, principal of Saint Francis Xavier High School, says staff delivered lawn signs for graduates as a way to mark their achievement despite the cancellation of in-person celebrations. 0:30

Rami Arab was the 314th sign delivery of the day.

"It means a lot because I honestly didn't think we were going to have anything at all," Arab said.

Arab said he's deciding between Carleton and the University of Ottawa for his biomedicine studies and, based on his experience with these last weeks of high school, he's hoping real classrooms open again.

"I'd rather be in a classroom studying with my other fellow classmates. It would've been a better environment than being home 24/7."

About the Author

Matthew Kupfer

CBC Reporter

Matthew Kupfer has been a reporter and producer at CBC News since 2012. He can be reached at matthew.kupfer@cbc.ca and on Twitter @matthewkupfer

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