St. Patrick High School students celebrate their graduation last year outside of the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium.

Deborah Banjaw was disappointed when she learned there would be no more in-school classes or student gatherings this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Grade 12 student at St. Ignatius High School is set to graduate next month but a traditional ceremony, like the ones normally held at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium for city high school students, won’t be happening.

“As much as (students) really wish they could walk across the stage, they really just want to feel that togetherness that senior students feel at the end of the year,” said Banjaw. “I know the school board has contacted us saying they are going to do some kind of virtual graduation so I think students are really looking forward to that, but they do again wish they could do it in person and do a traditional walk across the stage.”

Banjaw said she believes most students understand that their health and the health of the community is what’s most important.

“Health is priceless,” she said. “You can’t buy your health. If you have to take the necessary precautions to maintain good health, then I think most students would definitely take those precautions.”

The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board issued a letter last week to students and their families saying that although graduation and year-end activities will look differently this year, the board will make sure they are memorable.

“Our educators have been working diligently planning and preparing to try and do things virtually for your children,” the board said in the letter. “Although this is not ideal, they are trying to make the best out of the current situation. We’re all in this together and we appreciate your patience and understanding these last few months.”

Lakehead Public School is postponing graduation activities as well. A spokesperson for the board said there may be special events or activities planned for graduates but it’s in the planning stages.

Jennifer Picard’s 18-year-old son Alec is graduating this year and she said he’s gone through stages of being disappointed to accepting that this is the way things are this year.

“He would still like to see it happen,” said Picard, who is the secretary for Hammarskjold High School’s parents council.

“It’s a big moment in somebody’s life, so it’s disappointing as a parent that your child can’t have that,” she said. “It’s not that they can’t have the accomplishment because they accomplished the work. It’s the reward, basically.”

However, everyone knows it’s beyond control with the COVID-19 pandemic still posing a serious health risk, she noted.

“It is what it is and we can’t change it. So as long as friends and family all stay healthy and safe, that’s everything,” said Picard.

(This story was originally published on May 28, 2020)

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