COVID-19 rules curtail end-of-year celebrations, leaving students frustrated

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Ethan Beck and Michelle Nguyen, student co-presidents at Halifax West High School, proposed that Scotiabank Centre be used for graduation ceremonies. (Submitted by Michelle Nguyen - image credit)
Ethan Beck and Michelle Nguyen, student co-presidents at Halifax West High School, proposed that Scotiabank Centre be used for graduation ceremonies. (Submitted by Michelle Nguyen - image credit)

When schools reopened across the province, some students expected to be able to have a normal graduation and prom this year.

But that's not the case, and it has led to some frustration.

Schools like Halifax West High School sent out an email to students saying they would not be able to have more than two family members attend graduation.

Sophia Lane, who is set to graduate from the school, said she is disappointed.

"The only thing getting us through this year with COVID-19 and having school in the pandemic was us looking forward to having at least one last day with each other," she said.

In a statement released June 7 by Halifax West, students will select a time when they will receive a "graduation package," take photos and shake hands with their principal.

Submitted by Sophia Lane
Submitted by Sophia Lane

The package will include their diploma, report card as well as any awards or scholarships they received.

The format is designed to limit the number of students and family members allowed in at a time. Students can only have two guests, leaving some difficult choices.

A provincewide decision

Schools across the province have made similar plans for graduation, and some students had help from parents to modify their proms.

Samantha Conrod, a graduating student at Lockview High School, said that even though the June prom was cancelled, it is now rescheduled for July.

The school's graduation, however, is similar to many others around the province. She said that isn't how she wanted things to go.

She said there is "nothing special" about simply being handed a diploma and moving along.

"That's how it kind of feels, and it sucks," she said.

Submitted by Samantha Conrod
Submitted by Samantha Conrod

Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School in Antigonish has proposed to have a graduation ceremony at nearby Riverside International Speedway in James River.

The school would still have designated graduation appointments like others across the province, but the ceremony at the speedway would give grads a chance to be with their class — even if they are in separate cars.

If approved, the cars would park along the track. Students would exit their vehicle when called and be able to walk across a stage.

The event would be shown on a large screen for a few family members and their fellow grads.

Reaghan Sylvester, who is graduating from Dr. John Hugh Gillis, said she is looking forward to getting more than just a diploma if the event is approved.

She said there is some sadness from not having a "classic experience," but she is excited to have something to commemorate her grad year.

"At the same time, it's going to be really fun and really memorable," said Sylvester.

A proposed solution

Halifax West student government made a graduation proposal to Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, on May 31.

The proposal was to host their graduation at the Scotiabank Centre, where crowds were able to attend some Halifax Mooseheads games this year.

Submitted by Michelle Nguyen
Submitted by Michelle Nguyen

"We made it very clear in the proposal that this proposal can be used for all the other high schools in the HRM so that they are able to have a graduation as well," said Ethan Beck, the co-president of the school's student government.

It was turned down due to COVID-19 protocols.

Beck said he understands why a traditional graduation isn't possible because of COVID-19, but he and co-president Michelle Nguyen were frustrated they didn't receive more of a response.

"A little more clarification would have been nice, and maybe if there was anything else they could have looked into for the graduates, anything else that would have been safe," said Nguyen.

The province has no plans to change its position.

"We know this is disappointing for students and families, but given our recent wave 3 of COVID and our cautious approach to reopening, the proposal could not be approved as it did not fit within the gathering limits in phase 1 or 2 of the re-opening plan," said an emailed statement from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

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