'It takes months of preparations': Ford's grad announcement leaves school boards scrambling

Premier Doug Ford's announcement on Wednesday giving outdoor in-person graduations the green light left school boards across Simcoe Muskoka scrambling and confused.

"It takes months of preparations by a committee and staff to prepare for one evening of Grade 8 graduation," said Janet Bigham, Simcoe County Elementary Teachers' Federation president.

The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board sent a letter to parents Thursday stating that outdoor ceremonies go against public orders, despite Ontario's announcement.

The board's letter went on to say it would not change its plans, which it "has worked hard to put in place."

"It is important for families to understand any outdoor ceremony would be in direct violation of the restrictions that the government currently has in place," the letter stated.

The Simcoe County District School Board said it would go ahead with existing grad plans.

At the same time, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said it is still looking into the call for outdoor graduation ceremonies.

The shift to potential grad events comes as school boards work to address concerns over learning gaps resulting from weeks of remote learning.

"People are certainty tired at this point, and it has been a challenging year," said Kim Weishar, Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School superintendent of student achievement.

"We are hearing concerns around this really atypical school year and the ability of children to engage in learning through the remote learning environment," she added.

With a few weeks left in the school year, officials encourage parents to let their children unplug for the summer instead of playing catch-up if they've fallen behind.

"The best student that can come back to us in September is a student who is well-rested, is happy and is excited to learn," Weishar said.

Ford's office said school boards could continue with existing graduation plans but said it's working to amend regulations to allow end-of-year events and graduations.

Whether or not schools can pull them off with such short notice remains to be seen.