Coronavirus: Calgary parents organize drive-thru graduation for class of 2020

Calgary’s class of 2020 may not be able to experience a traditional graduation ceremony this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but a group of parents has come together to arrange a unique way high school students can cross the stage this summer.

In March, all in-person classes at schools across the province were cancelled, and on April 16, the Calgary Board of Education announced that all graduation ceremonies and celebrations would also be axed — a notion that didn’t sit well with one parent.

“We really need them to be the class of 2020, not the class of COVID-19,” Keri Miller said in an interview with 770 CHQR.

With that in mind, Miller, along with several other parents, crafted a drive-thru graduation ceremony to help celebrate students’ success amid the pandemic.

“It’s almost like a car wash meets a drive-in theatre,” Miller said.

“The students will dress in their gowns and suits and we’re pushing them through and creating this amazing experience for them where they can cheer and see some amazing regalia and a photo opportunity.”

Miller added that students will then be able to put on a cap and gown before driving across a virtual stage.

Miller noted that parents have worked with Alberta Health Services in creating the event that adheres to physical distancing regulations currently in place in the province.

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“AHS has been amazing,” she said. “They started conversations with us right at the beginning and really wanted it to work.”

“It has been important to get their approval and until we did, it was impossible to secure a school… The mayor was also keen right away.”

So far, the drive-thru graduation has secured a few schools in the city and will be hosted at the stampede grounds starting June 15, Miller said.

“It’s great to have community support, the Calgary Stampede wanted us to host it on their grounds, which is amazing, and we’ve had a lot of interest, and the teachers and students and parents are really excited about it.”

Miller noted that registration is open for students across the city, and added that the event can be performed as many times as needed to help high schoolers cross the stage this year.

“We will run as many as we need to, in as many locations as we need to, to cross as many students over the stage as we can.”

“That 12 years of work needs to be punctuated with closure.

“It needs to feel like you’ve had an end so that you can start a new beginning, and without this, with all the people saying we can postpone it for another year or merge it with the class of 2021, it just doesn’t resonate well with me as a parent.”

The event is not in partnership with the Calgary Board of Education or the Calgary Catholic School District, however, students from schools from both districts can still sign-up for the graduation experience.

In a statement to Global News on Friday, spokesperson for the CBE, Megan Geyer, noted the drive-thru events are not being endorsed by the board.

“As a group, senior high school principals determined that drive-thru graduation ceremonies posed a number of concerns, particularly related to equity and access for all high school students and families,” the statement said.

“Individual families can certainly choose to participate in the event on the Stampede grounds to celebrate their graduate, but the event will not be sponsored by or endorsed by the CBE.”

Geyer also noted that several high schools with the CBE have organized their own online and video tributes for students, along with the idea to host a graduation ceremony on a later date.

“We received significant feedback from our schools and families to consider a potential celebration to be held in the 2020-21 school year,” Greyer said. “Therefore, we have decided to create a flex, non-instructional half day to allow for an informal gathering of 2019-20 graduates during the 2020-21 school year.”

Students participating in the event will be charged a grad fee and will be allowed to have two people, which they live with, inside the car with them during the ceremony.

Miller said more information on how to register will be made available in the next week.

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