A Valleyview secondary student has launched a petition, with the goal of keeping alive the possibility of a traditional graduation ceremony when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
Due to physical-distancing rules, the Kamloops-Thompson school district has opted to recognize the class of 2020 through individual ceremonies, which launched this past week and will continue until the end of June.
Grade 12 student Tayler Primus, whose petition has received more than 1,000 signatures through May 31, said she would like to either see commencements postponed until the fall in case restrictions ease or a traditional ceremony held outside before the end of this school year, where students can maintain physical distancing.
“I’ve seen farmers’ markets around town and stores filled with people that are following distancing rules, so why not graduation, but distancing style? Or even being patient and waiting to have a proper ceremony that the grads deserve for working so hard to get where we are today,” she wrote on her petition page.
Primus said she started the campaign because she felt the current plans are unfair and were intended to be a last resort.
“I just feel the school [district] could have tried a lot harder to put on something special for the class of 2020 throughout all of Kamloops,” Primus said.
This past week, Valleyview students have been crossing a stage in cap and gown to receive their Dogwood diplomas in the company of immediate household family members — a sight reminiscent of the traditional graduation ceremony sans the other graduates and accompanying crowd.
Primus, who attended her ceremony on May 26, described it as upsetting.
“It was kind of short and not very memorable,” she said, noting she had to move her own tassel to the left of her mortarboard, as opposed to traditional grad ceremonies, during which the school principal does the honours.
Primus is concerned a traditional celebration for the class of 2020 will be forgotten once the individual ceremonies are complete and hopes the petition will keep that possibility on people’s minds.
“I know a lot of people have the same opinion I do, but no one really wanted to say anything about it,” Primus said.
The school district has made it clear it is proceeding with individual graduation ceremonies.
In a statement issued earlier this week, superintendent Alison Sidow said she is aware a petition is circulating among the graduating class. While she acknowledges the request, Sidow said school district plans are already in place and proceeding.
“I know this is painful for everyone. Our commitment is to see each student cross the stage and we are doing everything we can to make it happen,” Sidow said.
Each school will have videos edited together of their grad class receiving diplomas. Videos will include music, photos and quotes. Each video will also include that school’s valedictorian address, a message from the principal, a message from a school trustee and a message from Sidow.
Filming of the ceremonies began May 25, and wraps up June 26. Videos will be posted online as they are completed.
Asked if it would be possible to hold traditional ceremonies months from now if restrictions are lifted, assistant superintendent, Bill Hamblett, said it’s something the district would need to look at down the road, noting there’s no guarantee all students and their families would be available.
Valleyview grads among first to partake in commencements under COVID-19
In a video released by the school district of the ceremonies at Valleyview, their were some voices of gratitude and disappointment with the individualized graduation events.
“It was just really weird. It almost doesn’t feel like it happened yet,” grad Cari Rogers said.
“They did a good job of working around it, but I’m disappointed because she waited so long for it,” said Kent Shockey, a parent of a Valleyview grad.
“I think it’s great that efforts were taken to at least be able to acknowledge them individually,” parent Jody Lewis said.
“It was different, but it’s a good thing they adapted to the COVID,” graduate Mikaella Villaneuva said.
“I’m glad they didn’t cancel it,” Moriel Villaneuva said.
In the video, Valleyview principal Barb Hamblett said she heard from some people in the community and through the news that the amended graduation plans “sounded a bit lame,” but she countered that it highlights the recognition of each student’s success.
“Families told us right from the very beginning they were going to miss the crowds, kids were going to miss their friends and I get all of that,” Hamblett said. “But in some ways, because we’ve essentialized everything to just family and the students, we’ve seen an incredible, intimate connection of celebration for the families.”