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Cochrane high schools make tentative graduation plans

Graduation is looming ever closer, and high school administrators have begun setting tentative plans to host ceremonies to recognize student's achievements.
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Bow Valley High School student Olivia Gill receives her diploma from mayor Jeff Genung at her graduation at Spring Hill RV Park on June 20, 2020. (Chelsea Kemp/The Cochrane Eagle)

COCHRANE— With graduation day inching ever closer each day, many of Cochrane’s high schools are starting to make tentative plans for the big day.

With COVID-19 in the mix, forming concrete plans is a difficult task for administrators.

Tara de Weerd, director of communications with Rocky View Schools said in a statement provided to The Eagle the school district is delaying as long as possible before announcing any firm plans for graduation ceremonies at schools in the district.

“Ultimately, we are holding out as long as possible (recognizing there is time needed to coordinate) so that we may have a chance of offering students and their families a graduation celebration closer to what they would want it to look like,” she said. “We will continue to closely monitor any changes in restrictions as we move closer to graduation timing.”

De Weerd said the district recognizes that this is an important time for students, their families, teachers and administrators, and hopes that Rocky View Schools is able to offer a ceremony that satisfies all involved parties.

“We are planning for a few scenarios that would recognize our graduates, while following health guidelines and restrictions. Our students and families have expressed their preference for in-person ceremonies and we are holding off on making a decision on format to see if this is possible depending on how the pandemic and restrictions evolve.”

Although the school district is hopeful the ceremonies will be able to go forward, de Weerd said, safety ultimately comes first when determining graduation ceremonies for the students of Cochrane and Rocky View County.

“The unfortunate reality of the pandemic means we should prepare for a graduation ceremony that may not be what we would have envisioned for our students. Safety is always our first priority and we will need to be creative in how we celebrate our students’ achievements and this important milestone.”

She added that schools will be sharing news with families as the date draws nearer.

At St. Timothy High School, school administrators have been busy planning a unique ceremony for the students and their families.

School principal Rhonda Wolske said St. Timothy High School will be delaying graduation ceremonies from the end of May until the end June, hoping that COVID-19 case numbers will fall in the warmer months and there will be more opportunities for outdoor gatherings.

“It’s all very much dependant on Alberta Health Services as well as Calgary Catholic School district and what we are able to do and what restrictions and parameters are in place,” Wolske said.

Last year the graduating students attended a drive-thru ceremony, where individual families came through in cars one at a time.

This year, the school is looking at hosting a drive-in-style event for the graduating class, possibly in the field behind the school itself.

“That way we can still set up a stage, because I know that’s a big part of what they want to do is still walk the stage,” she said. “Depending on the restrictions we could have people stay in their vehicles or we could have different family zones set up so they can watch their child walk the stage.”

Wolske said if provincial health measures do not allow for outside gatherings the school might consider going back to the drive-thru format, but the ceremony would still give the students an opportunity to walk the stage in front of their families.

As for the finer details of the program, Wolske said, school administration is still working on how to proceed.

“We always have our grad mass being a Catholic school and we will be doing a pre-recorded part of it as well,” Wolske said. “We’re still looking at how we’re going to do the principal address, the valedictorian address and all of that as well.”