'The new rules don't make sense,' Quebec parents and students respond to prom being cancelled

THE LATEST ON THIS STORY: Quebec public health 're-evaluating' decision to cancel proms after uproar from students

After Quebec public health authorities told graduating students and parents that proms will not happen this year and graduation ceremonies should be held virtually or in class bubbles, some students and parents are asking why.

"We have waited five years to graduate," said graduating Kuper Academy student Taya Jacobs. "All the rules are being lifted and now the new rules don’t make sense. We are willing to follow certain measures that make sense, but to be told no prom and a graduation with no parents doesn’t make any sense. We should be treated like young adults."

Jacobs said social media is abuzz among her less-than-happy peers who are finishing a year where they logged on to learn online, wore masks, remained in bubbles in classrooms and during lunch when they could be at school, and kept their distance from one another.

"Everyone is pissed off and can’t understand why," she said.

Tanya Mitchell's son is graduating from Kuper along with Jacobs. She was shocked to hear he would not be rewarded after a year where so much was sacrificed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This year is supposed to be the best year of their high school experience," said Mitchell. "They've experienced nothing that they should have. They've had no grad trips, no grad activities, and they haven't been able to experience what it's like to be a true senior in the school."

OPENING EVERYWHERE, WHY NOT FOR GRADS?

Seeing 2,500 Habs fans at the Bell Centre and crowds in Old Montreal after the game, parks full of people, and gatherings throughout the city, along with vaccination rates rising, the parents felt they could have been able to organize a proper, safe event for their kids.

"They've been putting a lot of stuff on hold for a long time," said Emmanuelle Plourde, whose son is graduating. "For me, I feel in the population, it's the age group that has suffered the most, and we cannot even, at the end, let them have a little something for all the effort they have put in."

Quebec director of public health Horacio Arruda said the possibility of having a prom and graduation ceremony with parents was evaluated, and that it wasn't worth the risk.

"A prom is not the same kind of content that we have as in a stadium of 2,500 people and a prom is more difficult to control, classroom-level people get very close. They drink alcohol," he said.

Arruda said that until the population has both vaccinations, proms are high-risk activities, and that students and parents attending a graduation ceremony together could risk further outbreaks.

Plourde Bandu said that there are options such as rapid testing or a health questionnaire for students to fill out, or even a survey to see who has had a first dose. In addition, with Quebec's daily case numbers continuing to drop (208 new cases were reported on Tuesday, down from 1,101 at the beginning of May), the parents feel the risk will not be as great as Arruda says.

That, and their children have proven they can follow the rules.

"They trusted the kids to go back to school, and to stay in their bubbles and to wear a mask, and they did that," said Gayle Clayman, whose daughter is graduating. "Why all of a sudden, we can't trust them?"

Clayman added that with mental health suffering throughout the pandemic, to cancel the events outright is harsh.

"Let's try and make this work," said Clayman. "Why is it just no?"

English Montreal School Board spokesperson Daniel Smajovits said that schools are discussing holding virtual graduations to allow for parent participation.

It is not an option, the parents or students at Kuper will accept.

"I would love for them to be able to experience their graduation, their convocation with all of their peers, not stuck in their bubble class," said Mitchell. "They've been in their bubble class all year long." 

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