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WRDSB pushing back commencement events to fall

Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) students graduating this year will no longer celebrate commencement this summer as originally planned, having to wait instead for the fall, as is the case for all 16 high schools.

Virtual is still the expected medium in which the ceremony will take place later this year.

The board announced last week ceremonies scheduled for June 24 have been moved back to the fall because of the pandemic and current stay-at-home orders. A rescheduled date has yet to be set.

Even though the event was meant to be held virtually, WRDSB superintendent Ron DeBoer said the pandemic has impacted the ability for staff and students to come together and plan. Vendors have also been unable to work on providing components of a traditional commencement.

Last year, commencement was held virtually in the fall due to COVID-19, with all 16 postsecondary schools in the board hosting commencement the same night. This year, the plan was to have all schools – even the ones that usually host commencement in the fall – host the ceremony in the summer.

DeBoer said holding a commencement for each school would require components that simply cannot be put together in time for next month, thanks to the pandemic. Without knowing what things would look like coming out of the current lockdown, getting the ceremony ready in time was just too much for the board to complete at this time.

“Last November, we had all 16 schools that had a commencement on the same evening. Our communications department worked with schools in creating individual files and shells to individualize it (the commencement) per school, but also we have general speakers that were speaking to everyone,” said DeBoer. “Our photographer vendors that we work with, we had it all lined up for them to come in to take all the grad photos, all of those pieces. Because of the stay-at-home order, and then eventually the move to remote learning, none of those vendors can come into our schools to take grad photos. So that was a big, big part of the visuals, and the virtual commencement. If we weren’t able to do that, then there was really no sense in us doing a virtual commencement in June, and so we then made the decision to move the virtual commencement part to the fall.”

He followed up by stressing that each school was working on a way to celebrate their graduates, and commencement being put off was not the end for graduating students.

“Most schools have identified sort of a week in June to do a number of things and this will be very different from school to school, a number of things to really celebrate students. Again, because of the stay-home order we’re going to be in, we’re not sure what that looks like but we’re hoping that students will be able to come to the school grounds, do a drive by, have a picture taken – there’s a number of different things that schools will do around that, but so much of it depends on just where we’re going to be in the world with COVID.”

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