No outdoor graduations for Lambton’s public school students

Grad signs are popping up on lawns across Ontario as graduates miss another milestone occassion because of COVID-19 restrictions. Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday there should be outdoor graduations this year, however Lambton's public director of education says that won't be happening.

Premier suggested the move during a news conference Wednesday

Alex Kuriel/Local Journalism Initiative

The Lambton Kent District School Board says there won’t be outdoor graduation ceremonies this year.

This following a surprising announcement from Premier Doug Ford who said Wednesday he wanted to see every school hold outdoor ceremonies for every grade this summer.

“Traditional graduations are not possible, even outdoors, based on the reopening guidelines of Phase 1,” says Director of Education John Howitt.

“However we understand the spirit of the announcement and are exploring ways that when children come to pick up their personal belongings… we might be able to have some sort of a way for closure. We just haven’t settled on what that is yet.”

Ford’s outdoor graduation call came during the largely expected announcement that in-person school won’t be returning until September. Howitt says the board was planning to reopen in-person, but now they’ve “already moved past the point of disappointment that schools are not reopening.”

Howitt says although the news is a blow to many students and families, it’s still important to finish the virtual year strong.

“This by no means is an announcement that the school year is over… These two credits they’re currently taking are very relevant toward their pathway to graduation and to be graduating within the year that they hope to,” he says of all high school kids. “For our Grade 12’s these two courses that they’re taking currently also impact scholarship abilities and diplomas for post-secondary pathways, whether those students are choosing to continue in college, university, apprenticeships or the world of work.”

With the focus now shifted to opening the doors to the classrooms in the fall, Howitt is confident the return to class will go smoothly.

“Planning for September and the next school year, our teams are reviewing what we know now and what needs to be put in place,” says Public Relations Officer Heather Hughes. “We anticipate that any plans put forward as required by the ministry and any public health measures, we’ll be able to implement those efficiently and effectively as we have in this past year.”

Hughes cautions though that “a lot of things can change between now and September… It is a bit difficult to project what will be expected for September because we just don’t know if there’s going to be any new requirements.”

Public health officials say it will be very important to get students vaccinated over the summer to make sure September is as normal as possible.

Vaccines are currently available for kids 12 and up. Health Canada is in the process of examining their safety for younger children.