TDSB won't hold in-person graduation ceremonies despite province's suggestion for outdoor events

The Toronto District School Board announced it will go ahead with its virtual graduation ceremonies in light of the province’s announcement that school boards are permitted to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies.

'Months of planning have already gone into creating virtual graduations for students,' board says

The TDSB confirmed on June 4 it will hold its graduation ceremonies virtually. (Shutterstock/GP Studio)
The Toronto District School Board and its Catholic counterpart say they will go ahead with virtual graduation ceremonies only, despite an announcement by the province that school boards are permitted to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies.

At a news conference earlier this week, the provincial government announced Ontario school boards will not return for in-person learning, but added school boards would be permitted to hold "short, outdoor celebrations" for graduating students in elementary and secondary schools.

"We'll be working with school boards and health officials to make sure we can have outdoor graduation ceremonies for all students in all grades this summer," Premier Doug Ford said.

However, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the province is not mandating such events.

In the days that followed, the Ontario Principals' Council said the suggestion was "unrealistic" as plans for virtual ceremonies were well underway with little time to plan outdoor ceremonies.

On Friday, the TDSB issued a statement echoing that message.

"Months of planning have already gone into creating virtual graduations for students," the statement read. "Costs have already been incurred, and there is very limited time to plan in-person events of this size."

Consequently, the TDSB and the Toronto Catholic District School Board are continuing with their virtual ceremonies.

It is also trying to offer students an opportunity to meet with friends and staff before the end of the school year.

"We are currently exploring what may be possible for limited end-of-year, in-person activities such as students picking up belongings, dropping off devices/materials, saying goodbyes," the board said in the statement.

The visits will largely depend on guidance from Toronto Public Health and the Ministry of Education, it added.

Those celebrations could include drive-by events, co-ordinated classroom visits while picking up personal belongings or goodbyes for elementary students and graduating secondary students while complying with public health measures, both boards said.

Other school boards in the Greater Toronto Area have not confirmed whether they will host outdoor graduation ceremonies.

The Peel District School Board said it is "working with Peel Public Health to carefully assess what is safe and possible for students and staff," but added planning for virtual celebrations are continuing and it would notify families with any updates.

Likewise, on outdoor ceremonies, the Durham District School Board said in a press release "we do not know what this will look like for schools and we will be working with the Durham Region Health Department on what may be possible."

The York Region District School Board has not released any statement following the province's announcement earlier this week.

A statement from Ford's office issued Friday said "we are extremely disappointed to hear that some school boards are passing on the opportunity for their students to celebrate safely and in-person with their teachers and friends."

Noting there are still some weeks left before the end of the school year, the Premier encourages school boards to "think outside the box" to offer students the "send-off they rightfully deserve."

With files from The Canadian Press