Chilliwack grads to be honoured in virtual format due to COVID-19 fears

Extended provincial health order prompts school district to officially cancel in-person commencement

Commencement ceremonies will be held in a virtual setting for Chilliwack graduates, their teachers, and their families this year.

The school district made the announcement on Monday (April 27) following provincial news that gatherings in excess of 50 people would be prohibited until at least the end of summer, due to COVID-19. That continued provincial health order will also impact other students looking forward to their year-end celebrations.

“The extension of this order, which will be updated on the B.C. Government website in the next while, will require the formal cancellation of all of our year end school functions,” Rohan Arul-pragasam, interim school superintendent. “The cancelled year end functions include but are not limited to: commencement ceremonies (in their traditional form), graduation functions including prom and community dry grads, school year-end awards and celebrations, and year-end camps and field trips.”

He wrote a special note to the graduates of the district, who will likely be disappointed not to gather and take to the stage to receive their diplomas, awards, bursaries and scholarships.

READ MORE: ‘We don’t have a date’: Some B.C. kids might return to school before summer, but focus is on fall

“To our students in Grade 12 who are scheduled to graduate this year, I know these are very anxious times for you. You have spent the last 12 years or more eagerly anticipating the day you could walk across the stage and celebrate your success with your family and loved ones,” he wrote.

“Also, we know that you have been looking forward to all of the activities that culminate the year: the valedictorian speeches, prom, dry grad, etc. We share in your disappointment at not being able to celebrate as in past years and we are exploring alternative ways to celebrate your journey with you.”

The administrators at each school are looking into commencement ceremonies in a virtual setting, he added, and families will be informed once details are set.

Arul-pragasam thanked district staff, community and families for their commitment for supporting each other during the changes to education due to the pandemic.

“I am humbled by the thoughtfulness and compassion displayed by all in our school community,” he wrote. “As each day passes, we become stronger in our resolve as a community to beat this pandemic. Stay safe and healthy and thank you for caring.”

Several school trustees shared the news on their social media channels.

“Grads of 2020, I am so sorry that you are not going to get the kind of graduation experience you deserve after your 13 years of education,” Trustee Willow Reichelt said. “Cancelling traditional grad events is necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to save lives, but it is obviously hugely disappointing… Just know that no matter what the year-end celebrations look like, all of us are very proud of you.”

READ MORE: COVID-19: B.C. universities opt out of in-person spring graduation ceremonies


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