Frances Kelsey students from left: Celeste Borjeau, Gabrielle Pask, and Mika Leblanc are all on pace for high school completion and wanted the pomp and circumstance that goes along with it. (Submitted)

Mill Bay students holding out hope for a more traditional graduation

Disappointment likely looms, according to a SD79 report

It looks, on paper anyway, like a trio of Frances Kelsey soon-to-be graduates who petitioned to have a traditional commencement ceremony, have had their hopes dashed by School District 79. The girls, however, are still hopeful for an epic ending to their senior year thanks to a meeting with school district officials.

At their June 2 meeting, the Cowichan Valley Board of Education received a report from SD79’s director of secondary instruction Larry Mattin. It’s a set of plans which sees all secondary schools in the district planning to offer ceremonies unique to their schools, but not the traditional formal events.

Students Gabrielle Pask, Mika Leblanc, and Celeste Borjeau had joined forces to set up a petition for a formal graduation ceremony that they feel could have happened while adhering to the public health officials’ safety guidelines.

As of the morning of June 3, the petition had garnered 700 signatures.

Instead of what they’d spent their lives up to this point expecting from an end-of-the-year bash, according to the preliminary plan, the Frances Kelsey grads will be able to go to school for a cap and gown, diploma and photo ceremony but on an individual basis.

“As this is a brief recognition rather than the usual graduation celebration, a minimal number of family members, yet to be determined, will be invited to accompany graduates into the gym,” said the plan Mattin offered the Board of Education. “Small groups of graduates with their parents will be together in the gym at one time. Students and families will transition to the multipurpose room to see displays of pictures from their years at school and collect their graduate gift bag, exiting before the next group enters.”

The whole thing will take three days, June 15-17, to accommodate the physical distancing requirements and a video montage of the graduating class of 2020 will be created from the photos taken at the individual ceremonies.

“I understand the concerns of the educators and the community around the spread of COVID-19, it is a serious issue that requires serious planning,” said Pask.

Pask said she believed it would have been possible to have groups of 50 in the school’s gymnasium while adhering to social distancing protocols and with fewer than 180 grads, it wouldn’t take more than a day or two to host multiple ceremonies. She knows that’s not going to happen. It’s frustrating, but she gets it.

SEE RELATED: Mill Bay students petition for formal graduation

Leblanc was equally frustrated but she, Pask, and Borjeau still have reason to hope for better days ahead.

“We are thankful for the work that the school district and the parent planning committees are doing. We see the efforts being made,” Leblanc noted.

“I wasn’t expecting some miracle…we’re currently facing a global pandemic,” Borjeau added, noting she was grateful for those who have helping with their cause, including teachers, principals and members of the school board.

After a meeting the students had on June 3 with both Mattin and the SD 79 superintendent the trio said those talks went very well and would add a bit more of a student perspective to the planning of their graduation events.


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