Approval of outdoor grad ceremonies blindsides Windsor-Essex teachers unions

Premier Doug Ford gave an unexpected approval for outdoor graduation ceremonies for all students this June, but Windsor-Essex teachers’ unions say it might be hard to pull off in such a short time.

Ford said he wanted outdoor graduation ceremonies for all ages. He made the statement when he announced schools would not be resuming for in-person learning until September.

“I want schools to host in-person, outdoor graduation events and other opportunities for you to meet with your friends and reconnect outside before the end of the year,” said Ford.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation District 9 Greater Essex president Erin Roy said they were blindsided by this announcement.

“I don't think he quite understands how much it takes to put this together,” said Roy. “There has already been a lot of time put in to these virtual graduations. Notwithstanding he said every grade. I don't really know what that looks like.”

Mario Spagnuolo, president of the Greater Essex Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario agrees that putting together a graduation ceremony at this time is not feasible. 

“There’s a lot that has to be planned into an outdoor activity such as a graduation. Teachers have been planning for weeks, months when it comes to graduations and it has to be done properly. It has to be done safely,” he says.

Spagnuolo says they will do something to ensure the school ends on a positive note.

“We will provide the messages and support to our students so that they have something to look forward to for September but when it comes to outdoor graduations, I just don’t see that how that is going to happen,” he says.

Ford said outdoor gatherings are much safer than indoor events.

“We’ll be working with school boards and health officials to make sure we can have outdoor graduation ceremonies for all students in all grades this summer, rather than just grade eight and 12, it should be for all students,” said Ford.

Students have been online learning since spring break in mid-April.

With files from CTV Windsor's Sijia Liu.