Windsor-Essex English Catholic school board opts against outdoor group graduations
'We cannot, in good conscience, allow large gatherings,' WECDSB says
The English Catholic school board in Windsor-Essex is following suit with their public board counterpart in not going ahead with a traditional graduation ceremony this year.
The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) said that events for 2021 graduates will proceed much like they did last year, with speeches and awards given virtually.
Graduates will, however, have an opportunity to pick up their certificates at the schools in person at a scheduled time, take photos and speak with teachers and administrators.
The board provided the update to families of Grade 8 and Grade 12 students on Wednesday.
Officials said they understand that some may be disappointed with the news, given that Ontario Premier Doug Ford has recently expressed support for boards holding outdoor, in-person ceremonies.
"We would simply say to those people that we cannot, in good conscience, allow large gatherings of people where we cannot meet all recommended public health guidelines, especially considering all of the logistics involved with organizing such a large scale event," WECDSB said in a statement on its website.
"Additionally, with the limited amount of time left in the school year, we would not want to attempt to arrange a last-minute ceremony that would not meet the expectations of our students and their families."
The local English public school board, the Greater Essex County District School Board, is also holding ceremonies online this year.
"I recognize the students really want this; I have a graduate myself. She really wants this. We still have an obligation to keep people safe," Alicia Higgison, chairperson of the GECDSB, said in an interview last week.
Ford made the comments about graduations on the same day the province announced that school buildings would be closed for the remainder of the academic year.
"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," he said on June 2.
'Unrealistic and disrespectful'
The idea attracted scrutiny on logistical grounds, including from a group representing principals.
"We are being asked to revert and pivot again, to cancel graduation plans already in place and organize outdoor events amid social distancing restrictions," the Ontario Principals' Council said in a statement last week.
"It is unrealistic and disrespectful to Ontario educators to expect such a considerable shift in planning at this point in the school year."
With files from the Canadian Press