With Montreal schools being shuttered at least until the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, graduation celebrations have for the most part fallen by the wayside.
But at Talmud Torah Elementary School in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighourhood, a plan is afoot to mark the occasion.
On Wednesday, Grade 6 students gathered in a park outside the school for a special photo shoot.
The photos will then be incorporated into a yearbook that will be hand-delivered to students with their diploma.
It’s just one of the many surprises the school has in store for its graduating class.
“For us it was really important that we figure out a way to mark this very important milestone in the lives of our graduates,” said school principal Michelle Toledano.
“Grade 6 is a very important year for them.”
While appointments for the photo shoot were staggered and physical distancing enforced, students were happy to see their friends in real life.
“I’m really happy,” said Andrea Cohen. “I’m happy to see them and not just on a computer.”
But because of the circumstances, some felt a little bit cheated.
“It’s like a knock-off version of seeing my friends,” said student Jesse Ifrah, who was nonetheless happy to see them in person.
“You get what you get and you can’t get upset.”
Cohen says she learned about he yearbook two weeks ago.
“I was really excited that I was at least going to get a yearbook and my picture taken,” she said.
“We want something to remember.”
But at the same time, the moment was also bittersweet and brought up conflicting emotions.
“I”m going to miss going to elementary school and I’m going to be happy going on to high school because I’m growing up,” said student Maya Bendayan.
While happy to see their friends, the students also realized it was a time for goodbyes, too.
“It’s kind of cool seeing my friends for one last time, to say goodbye to the school,” Ifrah said. “It’s a little bit sad but still, it’s life.”
Teacher Judy Freidman says she’s proud of her students.
“I watched them through the hall all these years grow up, learn three languages, learn so much — become friends, become a cohesive group,” she said.
It was important for her to come by the park and see the students off, to let them know they aren’t leaving elementary school “unnoticed and unrecognized.”
“Today is the day I get to see my students leaving behind elementary school moving on to high school and getting a bit of normalcy into their lives,” she said.
“To be able to share it with them to be able to see them to experience it just be a part of it– it’s been great.”
After the photoshoot comes a virtual graduation ceremony.
“Usually our graduation ceremony is quite a big deal, it’s something they look forward to every year,” said Toledano.
“So we wanted to make sure that we marked it even if a little bit differently from the way we usually do it.”