Local schools are preparing to celebrate the graduation of their students in new ways this year with the pandemic preventing large gatherings.

Graduation committees have worked on alternative arrangements with school buildings closed for the remainder of the educational year due to COVID-19. Trillium Lakelands District School Board has allowed its schools to each make their own decisions on how graduation ceremonies happen, with many going online.

Haliburton Highlands Secondary School will do a video ceremony June 24, with all the normal speeches. The school will also offer students a chance to cross a stage and get photos taken the next day on a staggered, scheduled basis to allow for physical distancing.

“Our staff felt really strongly about celebrating our students and their accomplishments,” HHSS principal Chris Boulay said. “We want to make sure our graduates know how proud we are of them.”

Boulay said the school listened to feedback about the importance of getting graduation photos.

“Trying to have some type of photo moment was also significant for families to be able to have a reminder,” he said. “Even though it is a limited form, it’s still going to be very special.”

Other schools are also planning online ceremonies or events, including Archie Stouffer Elementary, J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary and Wilberforce Elementary.

Stuart Baker Elementary School is forgoing its usual clap out ceremony but is preparing slideshows for each of its Grade 3 students moving on.

Wilberforce Elementary principal Elaine Fournier said the school’s graduation committee is working on a virtual space for students to enjoy fun activities after addresses from the principal, trustee, and valedictorian.

“It’s going to be celebratory,” Fournier said. “It allows for everyone to participate.”

Although the pandemic has made for challenging circumstances, Fournier said recognizing milestones is still important.

“Everything feels like it has changed, but there are things that haven’t … Like the unwavering support and love and pride of the graduates’ families. The pride of teachers and staff members,” she said. “It’s really important to recognize and celebrate milestones. Just because we’re under unusual or extraordinary circumstances doesn’t mean we let go of, or forget that.”

Below is the full schedule of middle and high school ceremonies:

• Archie Stouffer Elementary School – June 22, 7 p.m.

• J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School – June 23, 6:30 p.m.

• Wilberforce Elementary School – June 24, 6 p.m.

• Haliburton Highlands Secondary School – June 24, 7 p.m.

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