June is supposed to be a milestone month for thousands of Ontario high school students as they look forward to proms and graduations. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has cut into many of these plans and today Education Minister Stephen Lecce urged school boards to proceed with celebrations, but only when it is safe to do so.
“Students have worked incredibly hard this school year, and we know that the COVID-19 outbreak has forced some schools to cancel or delay important milestones to recognize student achievement, such as prom and graduation ceremonies.
Lecce urged boards to reschedule these events based on input from local medical officers of health. He said it could mean holding graduation ceremonies and proms in the summer or fall when it is safe to do so, and added it may still be some time before schools and boards are able to offer the kinds of ceremonies and traditions in the same way they have in previous years.
In early May, the Simcoe County District School Board began reaching out to parents and students letting them know alternative ways were being explored to celebrate student achievements. At the time, board chairperson Jodi Lloyd said to protect public health, she didn’t expect large gatherings would be allowed at the end of June.
A spokesperson for the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board said all but two of its high schools have cancelled proms this year. The two that have not cancelled are waiting to see what the rest of the year looks like. Pauline Stevenson said the board is in a holding pattern with regards to graduation until there was more information from the Ministry of Education. She said they are asking schools to look into the possibility of fall graduations.
Lecce said students and parents deserve to celebrate many of these critical milestones–especially graduation ceremonies.
“I expect boards to preserve these opportunities to proudly recognize the incredible success and achievement resulting from the hard work of our students.”