In mid-March, high school students were eager to get out of school for March break. But what most high school students didn’t realize is that they would never be returning.
“We were excited to get an extra week off school (due to COVID) but we thought that would be it, two weeks and then we’d come back,” said Prince Andrew High School Grade 12 student Jayden Rose.
“It was kind of sad when we realized we were going to be missing out on all our end of the year celebrations.”
As Nova Scotians were told to stay home to help reduce spread of COVID-19, students finished out their year at home and proms and graduations were cancelled.
“It was really sad. I enjoyed my high school experience. We had a lot to look forward to towards the end of the year,” said Jeesica Ambrose, a Grade 12 student at Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford.
“I don’t think any of us realized how much we’re going to miss that school, and miss those people and teachers and classes, and a lot of people didn’t know it was our last day so we didn’t get that closure. That was the hardest part.”
As the province has started to lift restrictions, high schools are now making plans to hold some type of graduation ceremony and celebrate 2020 graduates.
At Prince Andrew High School in Dartmouth, students are now making individual appointments to walk across the stage and receive their diploma.
When the student arrives for their allotted time, the vice-principals will be call out their name, along with what they’ll be doing next year, and any awards they received. Only four people will be allowed to watch. But everything will be recorded and then edited together, along with graduation speeches from staff.
“We’re hoping it’s going to feel as authentic as possible and look as much like a standard graduation as it could. We have amazing kids and they deserve no less,” said Brad McGowan, principal at St. Andrew.
The video will then be posted online on June 29 at 11 a.m., when their original graduation was supposed to have taken place.
“I want this to stand as a remembrance that these kids sacrificed a big deal, they gave up a lot of their graduating year to stay home and make sure people were safe and in fact make sure people didn’t die. We have good kids and our team wants to work hard to celebrate them.”
For graduates like Alicia De La Hoz, the opportunity to still walk across the stage means a lot. She first came to Nova Scotia as an exchange student from Spain to learn English in Grade 10. She liked it so much she completed high school here.
She’s heading back to Spain this summer to attend university there in the fall, and she’s glad the school has found a way for her to still graduate with her classmates.
“It’s really important because we’ve been all waiting for this all three years through high school, so it’s an important moment for everyone.”
Her friend Jayden says she’s glad the school was able to find a way to still give them this opportunity.
“I’ve watched both my siblings graduate at Prince Andrew, so it will be good my parents get to watch me walk across the stage too.”
Many schools across Nova Scotia are taking similar approaches to what Prince Andrew is doing, though some are still working out the details.
Ambrose says she’s still not sure if CPA will have students walking across a stage indoors or set up something outdoors, but either way she says she’s thankful for all the support she’s received from her school during this unusual time, and that she’ll be able to walk away with her diploma.
“We’ve taken it day by day and given the circumstances. I think we’ve all done the best we could to get through these last few months and keep moving forward.”