Friday, January 22, 2021

Drive-Thru Graduation in the Midst of a Pandemic

Helen Solmes

The staff at Georgian Bay Community School (GBCS) could not let as important a milestone as graduation go uncelebrated. It took some ingenuity and special planning but GBCS Grade 8 and Grade 12 students did indeed have a graduation ceremony, of sorts.

On Thursday, October 22, students who completed their Grade 8 studies despite the March-June COVID-19 lockdown were invited to receive their diplomas during a drive-thru graduation ceremony. The grads arrived one at a time, by vehicle, with family members. The driver pulled up alongside the school, a teacher passed the certificate through the driver’s window, then the driver advanced the vehicle to the front entrance. The grad and family were invited to exit the vehicle and pose for photos.

On Friday, October 23, teachers and staff greeted Grade 12 grads outside the school, delivered diplomas and special awards certificates, and invited the grads to pose for photos with family.

Staff Amy Teed-Acres acknowledges that a drive-thru graduation is not the graduation that students dream of and plan for months in advance. The students’ studies were interrupted in March. The school closed and teachers developed an online curriculum so that students could complete the school year.

COVID has been challenging on so many fronts,” Teed-Acres said. “I think that it is important to give this group of young people as much recognition and support as possible.

Tanner Almond was among the Grade 12 grads who received his diploma during the drive-thru ceremony. “It’s different,” he said, “and it’s unique. It’s also good of our teachers to do this for us.”

Principal Kathy Archer said in a written address to the Grade 8 grads, “I am thoroughly impressed and thankful for the efforts of GBCS staff for their work to move to remote teaching and platforms they have never used before. I am proud of our GBCS graduates and how you handled the loss of a ‘normal’ graduation and a time to celebrate with family and friends.”

To the Grade 12 grads, she said, “The world may look different, but you have demonstrated resilience and strength that will serve you well for a lifetime.”

Valedictorian George Cantoni delivered his address virtually to his fellow grads, school staff, and parents. He thanked the teachers, school administration and staff, parents, guardians, and families, and in particular his classmates, saying, “Although we may not be together again, we will always share the memories that we have created within those walls. Regardless of where we go or what we pursue after graduation, Georgian Bay is something we all have in common. We have experienced it all together. The support that we have provided for each other is why Georgian Bay has become our home away from home for the past four years, as cliché as it may sound. It is because of you that we have such a strong sense of community in our school. Thank you.”

The valedictorian address can be heard at

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1l6vhqV6SN8bofMicXN5_Yg6CKssqHV_o/view

For more photos and a full list of graduates and award winners, pick up a copy of this week’s print edition of the Meaford Independent!

Photo: Georgian Bay Community School teacher Dave Walley delivers a Grade 8 diploma during the school’s drive-thru ceremonies on Thursday, October 22.

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