Rainbow School Board to grads: get ready for another virtual graduation ceremony

Norm Blaseg, Director of Education for the Rainbow District School Board, says it will likely be another year of virtual graduation ceremonies for Sudbury students.

Rainbow District School Board says it's taking the guesswork out of 2021 graduation

Students expecting to graduate from schools in the Rainbow District School Board will only be allowed to hold virtual grad ceremonies, the director of education says. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Norm Blaseg, Director of Education for the Rainbow District School Board, says it will likely be another year of virtual graduation ceremonies for Sudbury students.

Although he says there's a small chance the COVID-19 situation in Sudbury may change — vaccination rollouts for students are expected in the province's third phase in August — he wants teachers and students to be prepared.

"People look for certainty," Blaseg said. "And we're pretty sure, we are convinced that between now and the end of June, our circumstance is not going to change a whole lot in terms of how we meet in society, in general."

"We're 99 per cent sure what's going to be unfolding over the next few months," he said. "Why don't we prepare ourselves now? And so we informed our staff and parents so that we took all the guessing out of the equation."

The decision, Blaseg said, wasn't an easy one, but he believes this will give teachers and students ample time to prepare their virtual ceremonies, a luxury they didn't have during 2020's grad season.

He said teachers will have a chance to capture some of the special moments their classes share on video, which should help provide a unique type of virtual ceremony.

"To be honest about this, it's very unique, and we don't want to miss out on an opportunity to make sure that we can make the best possible decision based on a very unfortunate circumstance," Blaseg said.

Norm Blaseg, director of education for the Rainbow District School Board, says that students who have endured the pandemic will, down the road, see it as a unique time in their lives. (Casey Stranges/CBC)

He also said that precautions taken during the regular school year — social distancing, face masks, plexi dividers, would be much harder to co-ordinate in something like a graduation ceremony. Especially when there are still restrictions on how many people can gather indoors at a given time. 

Blaseg did leave room for a slight chance that students and staff would be vaccinated by the summer, in which case he said his teachers could quickly adapt.

They are a part of history- Norm Blaseg, Director of Education

"Our staff are super adaptable," Blaseg said. "But I don't want to raise anybody's hopes, because I don't see [full vaccinations] happening."

At the end, though, Blaseg said he prefers to consider the last year a "unique" experience for students.

"These students, for many of them to say they graduated in a year where a pandemic was so prevalent that their parents weren't able to attend, and they were not even able to attend... when they look back on this, they're gonna say, 'Wow, that was that was really big.'"

Blaseg said he also believes that, despite the challenges students have faced since the 2020, they will have learned a type of resiliency.

"They are part of a history," he said, "that is very much germane to them." 

"And I don't want to say it's precious, but in the context of special things happening in one's life, this is something that that will stand out." 

A spokesperson with the Rainbow District School Board said that there are approximately 900 Grade 8 students and 1,300 Grade 12 students in schools under the board's jurisdiction.


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