As the Liberal Opposition critic for Education and Early Childhood Development, I have been receiving a lot of calls and messages from New Brunswickers who want us to look at how we might hold high school graduation ceremonies of some form or another.
People fully appreciate the need to ensure whatever can be done must be done safely, under the guidance of Dr. Russell and our Public Health officials, but they also believe ceremonies can be held in a way that addresses this concern.
We would all agree that graduation is an important milestone deserving of recognition and celebration. Covid19 has caused us to restrict many activities we once took for granted. When students entered their final high school year last fall, who would have thought we would be facing a pandemic of this magnitude.
Many parents and students are offering ideas and suggestions on how we might proceed with some form of graduation ceremonies or events while continuing to put health and safety at the forefront. We hear of children’s birthdays being celebrated by friends and family driving past their houses, in vehicles adorned with birthday greetings and balloons, honking their horns and waving greetings from a distance.
Surely we can bring the same creative thinking to the discussions on how graduation ceremonies can be held. Other jurisdictions are doing so.
We may not be able to have all the activities associated with a traditional graduation and post-graduation, but that doesn’t mean we have to be the brakes on everything.
I am hearing suggestions like drive-by grad parades, spacy outdoor graduation venues (like soccer fields, or parks) that could allow for social distancing. I have heard suggestions about streaming ceremonies, using Facebook live and other technology so extended families could view them. There have been suggestions that family members could sit in their cars and honk their horns at the appropriate time.
Masks and gloves may have to be the order of the day (and would certainly make for memorable grad photos), but few would mind.
I have reached out the NBTA, the AEFNB and the New Brunswick Provincial Students Council as well as local student councils to seek their input. Other organizations may also have creative ideas.
We are also fortunate to have so many supportive community organizations and volunteers that would gladly lend a hand if we decide to move forward with graduations.
Yes, we must put health and safety first and have the approval of the chief medical officer of health, and there are compromises that will have to be made, but where there is a will, there’s a way. Let’s put our heads together and let’s give our grads the recognition they deserve.
Official Opposition Critic for Education and Early Childhood Development