Chilliwack secondary’s graduation commencement went ahead despite the COVID-19 pandemic, but it looked a lot different this year compared to previous years.
There were no family members present, no congratulatory hugs, no sitting shoulder-to-shoulder beside fellow classmates or leaning over to whisper in each other’s ear.
Instead, padded folding chairs for the high school students were spaced two metres apart. Their diplomas and a rose were placed on pedestals for them to pick up, instead of being handed to them by their principal and vice principal. Fluorescent orange cones sectioned off areas of the room and arrows taped to the floor pointed them in one direction.
And instead of commencement being a few hours long, this year it took five days for all 370 students to walk across the stage.
The school began filming its 2020 commencement last Thursday and are scheduled to finish tomorrow (Wednesday). Each day, groups of 25 students gathered for the 90-minute filming sessions to celebrate their high school completion as “together” as possible.
The students were recorded crossing the stage as the emcee read quotes by each graduate along with any awards they received.
As with any filming, retakes happened during Chilliwack secondary’s commencement and for at least one student on Friday, the third time was the charm.
Binseong Kim ended up walking across the stage three times that day. On his first go, the emcee pronounced his name incorrectly. The second time, the emcee misspoke while announcing one of Kim’s several awards. But the third time it was perfect.
After each student had received their diploma, they were all asked to do something that the principal would normally do while onstage.
The 25 graduates stood up and, simultaneously, moved their own tassels from the right side of their mortarboards to the left signifying their completion of high school.
“This is only one half of it,” principal Brian Fehlauer said following one of the filming sessions on Friday. “The celebration on June 6 is also a big part of it.”
Saturday, June 6 would have been the big commencement day – the day that friends, families and school staff were supposed to gather and honour the graduates of 2020. Now, students will be celebrating in their own homes and backyards instead, watching it all online.
When the video is released on the school’s website on that day, Fehlauer is encouraging Chilliwack secondary’s class of 2020 to “make it a real celebration” with their families.