EVEN schools currently operating fully in remote learning mode will be allowed to host limited in-person convocation ceremonies for the Class of 2021 — within new graduation guidelines.
Public health protocols around convocation celebrations expected later in June were a key topic of discussion during Manitoba Education’s weekly pandemic update meeting with superintendents across the province Tuesday.
Rules around ceremonies will vary, depending on whether or not a school is located in a COVID-19 hotspot.
"No matter what the restrictions are, I think that school staff and principals have been completely knocking it out of the park with following these guidelines and doing their darndest to make sure that kids have a memorable or special graduation," said Cathy Tymko, superintendent of Sunrise School Division.
Sources told the Free Press every school located in Sunrise (based in Beausejour) and other regions where in-person learning is ongoing, a single class of students can attend a ceremony — be it indoors or outdoors — at a time.
Physical distancing and masking, except for brief moments for photos when a photographer is still adequately distanced, will be in place at the events while spectators will be prohibited from attending, per the Tuesday meeting.
Should an event be held indoors, administrators are expected to factor in adequate time for cleaning between sessions.
"At the very least, (rural) graduating students will be able to have a moment with their peers who they spent 13 years with in school," said Tymko, who noted superintendents were orally informed Tuesday of new guidelines, which are expected to be put in writing before the end of the week.
As for soon-to-be graduates currently doing remote learning, they will be able to participate in a contactless exchange of diplomas and awards. Groups of friends who want to graduate together in hotspot regions will be allowed to do so in groups of up to six students.
In line with the new regulations, many schools in Winnipeg are planning outdoor drive-thru celebrations similar to what Class of 2020 graduates experienced, alongside virtual events, during which valedictorians and school staff will give speeches.
For a large school, such as Maples Collegiate in Winnipeg, the drive-thru graduation is expected to last three full days.
Manitoba Education has yet to make public formalized education guidelines. A spokesperson said Wednesday those details will be published soon.
École Powerview School in Sunrise beat the province in announcing how the guidelines will affect its community earlier this week.
In a letter dated June 8, principal Trevor Reid said the school will have a modified, "graduates only" ceremony June 25, followed by brief individual ceremonies the next day via drive-up model.
Reid said the set-up will allow graduates — of which there are less than 40 — to experience the milestone celebration together, albeit distanced. The school will either livestream or record the initial event for family members.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.