Holland College is planning to go ahead with in-person graduations this year despite COVID-19 — but it will have a lingering effect.
While students will be graduating in 50-person cohorts, parents and guests won't be allowed to attend due to public health gathering restrictions.
"All the graduations will be live streamed, and so the family and friends can participate kind of virtually from anywhere across the world," said Lornie Hughes, executive director of student experience at Holland College.
"The focus is really allowing that student to put the gown on, to walk in with their classmates and come across the stage and pick up their graduation diploma in that unique environment that some only get exposed to once in their lifetime."
He said while parents can't be there to take pictures, a staff member has been tasked with snapping photos of graduates.
The graduations will happen over six days between May and July — with five days in Charlottetown and one in Summerside, Hughes said.
"We will be having upwards of four graduations on campus on each one of those days."
Before COVID-19, graduations were held at off-campus locations such as the Delta in downtown Charlottetown, but Hughes said the college decided to host the events on campus this year because they are familiar with things like setting up separate entrances and exits to follow pandemic protocols.
Last year, in-person graduation ceremonies were cancelled because of COVID-19. Hughes said the college had to mail diplomas all around the world — and he's happy students will get a chance to get their diploma in person this year.
"We did hear right away from students that they would prefer an in-person ceremony, and we heard that all through the year," Hughes said.
Students are excited, including Chryshawnda Adams, president of Holland College Student Union.
"I think we are all delighted we get the opportunity to walk across the stage," she said. "I think we all feel that excitement and that delight of what is going to happen."
She said she is excited to be able to have an in-person graduation when many missed theirs last year.
"I know that there are some places that are highly restricted that they won't have any in-person experiences, but I do feel good we get to have this," she said.
Physical distancing, sanitization and mask wearing will happen at each graduation event — but students will be able to go mask free at one key moment.
"When the student walks onto the stage they do have the ability to take that mask off as they go through and pick up their diploma and put the mask back on when they come off the stage."
Hughes said while the plan is to move ahead with graduation cohorts of 50 — things could change depending on the COVID-19 situation in the province.
Graduation times for specific programs can be found on the Holland College website.
The University of Prince Edward Island has not yet released a plan for in-person graduation ceremonies.
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