St. Hubert high school holds graduation parade amid COVID-19 restrictions

St-Hubert’s Heritage Regional high school proceeds with graduation celebration
The second largest English high school in Quebec decided to allow its annual graduation celebration go on with physical distancing measures in place. As Global's Phil Carpenter reports, this year's ceremony looked much different.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting large gatherings, Heritage Regional High School in St. Hubert could not hold their planned graduation ceremony at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Montreal on Saturday.

So they had a graduation parade.

“We wanted to do something special for our kids,” principal Sujata Saha told Global News. “We are so lucky to spend five years with them, share so many great moments with them.”

For hours on Saturday afternoon, students drove by the school in cars — even a rented fire truck — festooned with decorations like ribbons, placards and stickers, stopping only once so individual students could exit briefly to have their photos taken, and then continue on their way.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Graduating Quebec students to be given chance to say one last goodbye

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“We’re not gonna give them the diploma because we will be holding a graduation for the class of 2020,” Saha promised. “Even if it means doing it in 2020.”

Schools in the province were forced to close weeks ago because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and Quebec lawmakers only gave the green light at the end of May for elementary and high schools to hold a “special reunion activity” for students to say one last goodbye to peers and teachers.

The catch was that COVID-19 safety protocols must be respected.

Students say, given the circumstances, the gathering means a lot to them because they never thought graduation would look like this.

“It feels like I dunno, like a dream come true,” said Shur’ri Adam, who was beaming as she drove up to get her photo taken. “I didn’t think I would have prom and grad and this just makes it better. And I’m so happy because I saw my favourite teacher.”

“It means a lot, a lot,” fellow graduate Gabriel Michaud agreed.

“It just means that you recap all your childhood and your adolescence and that’s done and now you’re going into adulthood,” added Michaud’s girlfriend Maya Chapman, who is also leaving the school.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Montreal school goes the extra mile to mark Grade 6 graduation

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French teacher Ariane Bourgious said because of the special circumstances around the pandemic, the  event was particularly moving.

“I’m really emotional to see them like in this,” she said, fighting back tears. “Like that’s a special day.”

Almost all of the 321 graduates showed up, surprising even students.

“A lot of, like, students these days don’t seem to care,” Frederique Gravel said from the back seat of her father’s car, where she sat with her twin sister Penelope, another graduate. “I wasn’t gonna come but I’m happy that I got this chance to experience this.”