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A special ceremony for a special class

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The Dauphin Regional Comprehensive Secondary School (DRCSS) Class of 2020 will be celebrated at a spring convocation after all.
Originally Mountain View School Division cancelled graduation exercises at its six high schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, opting instead for a fall program.
“Obviously seven weeks ago things looked a lot differently. We kind of made the assumption that things would return to normal in the fall and we would be able to have a traditional grad. And the closer we get to that, the more we realize that that’s not going to happen. The likelihood of restrictions being in place until there’s a vaccine found are extremely high, so there’s no way a school our size can host a traditional graduation,” DRCSS principal Norm Cassavant said, adding the school received permission from the division to hold as traditional a grad as possible on June 20.
“Maintaining all of the regulations that the province has put in place.”
Cassavant said several community groups were planning to honour graduates in different ways that day such as holding a tree planting ceremony and a parade.
“We thought why don’t we just combine everything and make sure the kids get their diplomas before the end of the year so everybody can move on,” Cassavant said, adding scholarships will also be presented that day.
The format will see graduates brought into the school gymnasium in groups of three. Each graduate will be allowed four guests, Cassavant added.
The gymnasium will be decorated, he said, and there will be a photographer, videographer and scholarship donors present. There will also be a station set up for pictures with family.
A very individualized program will be held, Cassavant said.
“We will say some words about them, if they’ve received any scholarships. There will be a video playing of baby pictures and any achievements that they’ve had since they have attended our school,” he said.
“They’ll receive their diploma and we had signs made up to place in their yards, so they’ll get that at that time, as well.”
With a parade planned for 5 p.m., each graduate will also receive a box of decorations for their vehicle.
The plan is to start convocation at 10 a.m., Cassavant said, adding it will likely run until 4:30 p.m.
Video of diploma presentations will be mixed with messages from Cassavant, a yet-to-be determined valedictorian and a special surprise keynote speaker and compiled on a disc for each graduate.
“So it will appear to be a very traditional grad on the video,” Cassavant said, adding he struggled long and hard trying to decide how to best honour his students.
“I lost a lot of sleep over this trying to make the best decision. Initially the Sept. 4 grad made perfect sense to us. While it was a bit of an inconvenience for families, we felt that a traditional grad could still be held.”
As it started becoming apparent that restrictions might still be in place in September, other ideas were explored, Cassavant said, such as holding an outdoor event at a venue such as Selo Ukraina.
“But we still couldn’t gather in large numbers, you know, and the weather could be a factor out there. So we just went with what we could control and we can control this,” he said, adding there is tremendous support for the plan.
“We brought some parents and grads together when we made this decision and it was overwhelmingly ‘let’s do this now. They said even for the Sept. 4 grad, they figured that we might only have 70 per cent of the grads. So I think this is the best case scenario.”
While there is no plans for a dinner and dance for a formal Safe Grad celebration to be held that day, Cassavant is still encouraging graduates to celebrate their achievements.
“What I’d be doing is you can gather outside in groups of 50, so you get your four or five best friends that you’re graduating with and you guys have a barbecue with family. That’s more meaningful than any safe grad is,” he said.