Becky Thompson, holding the laminated photos of the graduates. (Submitted photo)

The LDSS class of 2020 to get an unconventional grad ceremony

A grand march at Spirit Square and a barbecue at Francois Lake to follow

The graduating class of 2020 at the Lakes District Secondary School (LDSS) in Burns Lake, will have their convocation ceremony with slight changes to the usual affair. The school announced in a Facebook post that the graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 will be held on June 12.

The post suggested that the graduation ceremony would be held in the school’s gym during afternoon hours. It also said that the limited capacity in the gym would mean that the ceremony would be restricted to grads only, and guests and parents won’t be able to attend the ceremony.

RELATED: Check out LDSS graduation 2019

While the graduation ceremony preparations are underway, Lilly Reed at Lilly Cakes & Bakes said that orders for graduation cakes filled up fast this year as parents have been wanting to make the day even more special due to the COVID-19 situation. “This year things are a lot more personalized for each cake rather then all of them being the run of the mill graduation themed,” she added.

Earlier, the school district had announced cancellation of all grad ceremonies as per the public health order’s prohibition on large gatherings and events. In an email to Lakes District News, assistant superintendant of SD91, Mike Skinner had said, “Several of our schools are investigating the possibility of holding ‘virtual ceremonies’ that could be livestreamed to families and friends. Each high school will develop their own unique plans that ensures health orders are followed and district staff are in regular communication with each principal to assist as needed.”

RELATED: Canadian school students face possible cancellation for grad ceremonies

The school’s decision to hold the graduation ceremony without any attendees however is seeing mixed responses among parents and children, with some being happy about the ceremony being held at all, to those wanting the school to reconsider allowing parents in. “The parents are not going to be involved when the students get their diplomas at the school but it is what it is,” said Becky Thompson, parent of a graduating student, while explaining that even though not being able to attend the ceremony would be disappointing, the parents were excited about the grand march, the photo sessions and the barbecue. “It is unprecedented, we have had to come up with fresh ideas, make some compromises but it is also going to be really cool and really different.”

Thompson, who is one of the parents, leading the efforts into organizing the grand march explained the elaborate and unique plans for this year’s grand march. The parents have hired a photographer and a videographer and have organized a photoshoot before the graduation ceremony. The students will be divided in to two groups for the grand march to adhere to health guidelines and after that, the students will all head over to Francois Lake Hall for a small barbecue and a mini celebration. There will be a mechanical bull, food, and the parents have also planned to present all the graduates wth gifts.

This year, the village is also pitching in on the celebrations, with the staff printing and laminating 22 by 27 inches pictures of graduates that would be placed in the Spirit Square on June 13 during the grand march and later inside the Lakeside multiplex for the community to look at . “On behalf of Council and staff for the Village of Burns Lake, we would like to congratulate all the 2020 graduates and wish them all the best in the future,” said Sheryl Worthing, the Chief Administrative Officer with the village, when asked about the village’s response to the graduating class this year.

The graduation ceremony itself will see co-valedictorians this year instead of just a single valedictorian. Principal Heidi Grant informed that “for the co-vid year, the covaledictorians are Lucas Phillips and Daira Strimbold, both graduating with a 94 per cent average and outstanding citizenship”. Grant, although is very excited about the graduation, is also emotional about this particular group of graduates as Grant and the graduates came to LDSS in the same year and have been together for five years since Grade 8. “It is very difficult to think about a ceremony where I will not be able to shake hands, high five, or embrace each learner as they cross the stage. I’m working hard not to dwell on that and to put my energy into how I can deliver the sentiments in different ways. Graduation is a special milestone in a young person’s life and we never expected to have to do things differently. They will still be disappointed in many ways, but our modelling will help them build resilience and look for the positive when life throws them curveballs in the future.”

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