Winnipeg high schools again find creative ways to celebrate graduation amid pandemic

For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic has Winnipeg schools finding creative ways to celebrate high school graduations. 

At Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute, plans are in place for a drive-thru ceremony, online graduation video and even a cardboard cutout of principal Lorne Belmore for student photos.  

“We view graduation as a passage in a person’s life and it’s something we feel is very necessary to be acknowledged,” Belmore said. “So, given the parameters by the province, we worked to the best of our abilities as the committee, with some student input, to come up with a feasible plan.”

Lorne Belmore, principal at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute, says they created a cardboard cutout of him for student photos. (Justin Fraser/CBC )

Vehicles will be scheduled to arrive during designated time slots on graduation day, starting at 9 a.m., and staff will let students know when it’s their turn to pick up their diploma.  

“The graduate will get out of the car at one end … various stations will be set up where diplomas and other grad gifts, awards etc. … will be handed out following public health guidelines,” Belmore said. 

At Gordon Bell High School, students will be walking the green space, rather than a stage. 

Graduates will be assigned a specific time to pick up diplomas, see a slide show, watch a video and listen to a pre-recorded song by the school choir, teacher Kelsey Shiaro says.

Teacher Kelsey Shiaro says Gordon Bell High School will have designated time slots for students to pick up high school diplomas at an outdoor walk-thru graduation. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Students will also have a chance to sign a mural, a tradition that started last year. 

“You enter school in kindergarten and you work for all these years and as you get older this concept of graduation becomes more real and closer, and for a lot of students and families it’s a really momentous event in their lives,” Shiaro said. “We really wanted to make sure that we acknowledged it.”

She says for the most part, students are grateful to be able to still mark their achievements. 

“I think they perhaps thought that they weren’t going to be getting much of anything and so  finding out these little pieces of the day are going to come together to sort of celebrate their achievements, I think has been met with a lot of relief and happiness.”

Maples Collegiate Principal Scott Shier said the school said stations will be setup at a drive-thru for Grade 12 students to collect their diplomas. (Trevor Brine/CBC )

Maples Collegiate principal Scott Shier says he knows this has been a tough year for students. 

“They’ve had their performing arts taken away from them, they’ve had their athletics taken away from them, they’ve only had half capacity at school and now they don’t even really have kind of a culmination at the end here,” Shier said. “Those are the first thoughts that I thought of last year when they went to remote. Those were my thoughts this year as well.” 

He says the school will set up drive-thru stations for Grade 12 students to collect their diploma and take pictures, adding  the students will also receive caps and gowns earlier than a typical year, giving them more time to capture photos. 

“We want to focus on all of the positives that they had here pre-pandemic and focus on those memories, rather than these last little ones,” Shier said. 

He says he’s seeing students focusing on the positives, too. 

“They’re not dwelling on it,” he said. “They understand that, you know, this will come to an end and we just want to help them overcome, you know,  the things that they’re struggling with.”

For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic has Winnipeg schools finding creative ways to celebrate high school graduations. 2:11