Grads and proms: This is what school boards in the GTA are doing amid COVID-19
TORONTO -- The COVID-19 pandemic is sidelining some of the important moments in a young person’s life — a high school graduation ceremony and prom.
Sally Meseret, the president of Ontario Students Trustees’ Association, said it’s important schools and school boards make a commitment to graduating students to hold these special events at a later date.
“Students would really like to see people recognizing the importance of these milestones and committing to finding other ways to commemorate them, even if it’s not right now,” she said.
Meseret is also encouraging schools and boards to continue moving ahead by making valedictorian selections and designating awards.
In Ontario, the decision on what to do about graduations has been left up to individual school boards, the Ministry of Education told CTV News Toronto.
Toronto District School Board
With students out of the class room until the end of May and gatherings of more than five people banned, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) said graduations and proms have either been cancelled or postponed until the end of the school year, which could open the door to commemorations online or events being held in the future.
“What we’re doing is leaving up to individual schools to do what works best for them,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said.
“We have to look at what the public health officials have to say, are large gatherings allowed at ‘X’ time, we don’t know. If larger gatherings are allowed, then obviously we’ll look at that, maybe it’s sometime over the summer, maybe it’s into the fall, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Bird said if distancing must continue for several more months, perhaps there will be virtual events, but so far none have been planned.
York Region District School Board
The York Region District School Board has postponed graduation ceremonies to the fall.
“Provided we can hold these events within public health guidelines,” said manager Licinio Miguelo in an email to CTV News Toronto.
Toronto Catholic District School Board
“We understand a graduation ceremony is something many staff and students look forward to, however, at this stage it is still a "wait-and-see" situation,” said board spokesperson Shazia Vlahos in an email to CTV News Toronto.
“At this time we have no information on virtual graduations within the TCDSB community and are awaiting further direction from the Ministry.”
York Catholic District School Board
The York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) said after careful consideration and discussion it cancelled all events and activities until the end of this school year, including graduation ceremonies.
“Even if students return to the classroom in June, events and activities will not take place. Students and staff will need to focus on learning and readjusting to being back together in the classroom,” said communications and marketing manager Mariann Gordon in a statement to CTV News Toronto.
“We know this will be disappointing for many but the decision was made in an abundance of caution given the current situation.”
YCDSB said it plans to organize graduation ceremonies in the fall.
“We recognize the importance and significance of these milestone events and will do our best to organize them for our students and families,” the board said.
Durham District School Board
In an email to CTV News Toronto, the Durham District School Board Communications and Public Relations Department said with the uncertainty about when large gatherings can take place, it made the made the difficult decision to cancel all board-sanctioned special events, including proms, until June 30.
However it also said it hasn’t made a decision about cancelling commencement and graduation ceremonies.
“We will be taking into account feedback received from students and families throughout our district as we consider ideas to help graduating students celebrate their important achievements,” the department said.
“We fully understand the feelings of students and families during this challenging time, especially students preparing to graduate to the next chapter in their lives. We are guiding our actions through the ongoing advice and recommendations of our public health officials as the provincial state of emergency continues.”
Peel District School Board
Peel District School Board told CTV News Toronto that commencements are being rescheduled to the fall and no virtual events are planned at this time.
“Staff made the very difficult decision to cancel all athletic banquets, semi-formals and proms for the remainder of the school year,” said spokesperson Ryan Strang.