COVID-19: B.C. high school grads urge province to allow larger celebrations for those vaccinated

Click to play video: 'Grade 12’s wonder about pandemic graduation ceremonies' Grade 12’s wonder about pandemic graduation ceremonies
Thanks to the pandemic, high school grad ceremonies in B.C. were all but lost last year and there are fears the same could happen for the class of 2021. As Richard Zussman reports, students and parents are hoping the province can make an adjustment to the restart plan to help end a difficult year on a high note. – May 31, 2021

Facing a far-from-normal graduation, some in British Columbia’s class of 2021 have a new idea: If they get vaccinated, they can have a bigger celebration.

All British Columbians 12 years of age and older are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

School districts are in charge or organizing graduation ceremonies. Those events are currently being planned as low-key affairs, at which there is reduced capacity for attendance and parties are either not happening or severely reduced.

Read more: Coronavirus: B.C. high school student launches petition against video graduation

“There are a lot of people who don’t follow the rules. And me and my friends have been following all the rules and got vaccinated and there is that thing, when is my reward coming?” Yale Secondary Grade 12 student Kennady Barr said.

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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says using vaccination as a way to ensure a safer grad is something the school health team has discussed and decided against.

Public health has established a group that meets regularly with the superintendents, parents, student groups, and teachers.

“There are lots of really great, important, innovative ways we can celebrate graduation this year — certainly outside, within the restrictions that we have. I leave it up to that group to provide the best advice about how to do this safely across the province,” Henry said.

It is unclear how many grads have received a vaccine so far, but there have been growing registration rates among the 12- to 18-year-old age group.

There are some graduation ceremonies that have already taken place, but the bulk are scheduled for June.

Click to play video: 'Dr. Bonnie Henry on safe B.C. high school graduation guidance' Dr. Bonnie Henry on safe B.C. high school graduation guidance
Dr. Bonnie Henry on safe B.C. high school graduation guidance – May 14, 2021

“I feel there is some hesitation, definitely for some people in our grade, so if you were to put that in place it would not only help get grad in place, it would help get cases down as well,” Delta Secondary School Grade 12 student Matt Barker said.

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“If there is incentive for people to have a grad, you would have people at every vaccination centre. People are like, what is the point of getting vaccinated if you are not going to have a grad?”

At Ladysmith Secondary, parents are involved in organizing the student prom celebration.

Like many high schools across the province, they has been fundraising since the beginning of the school year with hopes of having a larger celebration.

Click to play video: 'B.C. high school celebrates graduation with parade' B.C. high school celebrates graduation with parade
B.C. high school celebrates graduation with parade – Jun 16, 2020

The goal is to have a party on June 26 and parent Carrie Segreto is asking the province to consider an amendment to the provincial health orders to move to Step 3 early, if case counts and hospitalizations continue to go down.

Step 3 would allow for larger outdoor gatherings.

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“July is not ideal as families may have other plans, summer jobs will have begun and many grads would not be able to participate,” Segreto said.

“I ask if there could be any concessions made for high school graduating classes and if they would consider pushing up the July 1st date to June 26th, to give the graduates the opportunity to plan and celebrate prom on the weekend after classes end.”

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