After five previous versions failed to get past the health and safety manager, the Mission School District’s plan for its 2020 graduation ceremonies are now in place.
The district’s ceremonies for École Mission Senior Secondary, Fraserview Learning Centre and Riverside College graduates will all happen later this month.
The superintendent of the district, Angus Wilson, said it’s been challenging to find suitable locations for plans that follow the provincial health COVID-19 guidelines, which restrict gatherings to under 50 people.
“There’s this thing I call ‘The backdoor to the castle,’ where you’ve got this great plan and everythings wonderful, but then there is this one thing,” Wilson said. “It becomes a problem because you’ve created this one weak spot in the chain.”
One idea, for example, was to use the cafetorium at Heritage Park and have groups of 49 people receive their certificates in segments. The plan fell through because the rooms would have to be extensively cleaned before another group could begin.
“Now you’ve just put 100 people in that room, so it’s no good,” Wilson said. “We have to run through all those scenarios.”
Typically, École Mission Senior Secondary’s has a large ceremony for 300 to 400 students at Northview Community Church in Abbotsford, but the location was not suitable under the new health guidelines.
This year’s ceremony will take place on June 20 at Mission Raceway Park at 9 a.m. – for the first cohort of 49 students.
“Students and their families will come in pods of cars and then the first cohort will cross the stage one at a time,” Wilson said. “When that group of 50 is done, they will leave and the next cohort will arrive and repeat the process. That will take the bulk of the day.”
A stage is being built at the raceway, and parents will be able to watch from their vehicles and take pictures at a distance. When the students exit the stage they will pick up their certificates and scholarships. There will obviously be no handshakes with the principals, Wilson said.
Fraserview Learning Centre’s graduation ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. on June 16 at Northview Community Church on Dewdney Trunk Road in Mission.
The school usually has 20 to 25 graduates, so the ceremony will happen “relatively fast,” said Wilson.
“With only around 20 graduates, you can actually manage that all at once.”
The ceremony will by followed by a community gathering of less than 50 people, which includes a drive-in movie event with fewer than 50 vehicles, according to Wilson.
Those who are planning to attend must RSVP. It will be possible to watch the ceremony from home through a Zoom call.
Riverside College’s ceremony will be held in Heritage Park on a field next to the tennis courts from 12 to 6 p.m. on June 17.
The college, which has a mix of secondary students and adult learners, has around 100 people who graduate every year.
Graduates will be split into groups of 10, and each group will cross the stage at separate times similar to École Mission Senior Secondary’s format. Every 30 minutes a new cohort of graduates will by cycled through the stage to receive their certificates. There will be no seating.
“It’s only going to be 20 minutes for each group,” Wilson said. “If we have seating, then we have to clean it between groups.”
If it happens to rain on the day of the event, it will be rescheduled to the next sunny day, Wilson said.
Wilson said he understands the how hard this has been for students, who may feel like they are missing out on an important tradition and rite of passage.
“This is one of your major life events, I remember my grad,” he said. “This is different, and that’s upsetting. It’s not what you would have dreamt of your whole life to have happen.”