'Nobody had any idea': Waterloo Region reacts to the possibility of outdoor graduation ceremonies

Students are counting down to the end of the school year and looking forward to the possibility of outdoor graduation celebrations as promised by Premier Doug Ford.

But according to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph's top doctor, it is not that simple.

“The fact that there will be a large number of people probably in a fairly small part of school grounds, so these are things we have to work through and then there's the weather,” said medical officer of health Dr. Nicola Mercer.

Waterloo Region's medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang supports local school boards in whatever decisions they make, she said.

Premiere Ford floated the idea of outdoor graduations earlier this week, catching school boards and teachers' unions by surprise.

“Nobody had any idea he was putting it out there, and it's so disrespectful to the fact that lots of schools have already been planning events that could take place virtually or in a drive-thru kind of fashion,” said Rob Gascho, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation for Waterloo Region.

So far it does not look like in-person celebrations will be a reality given COVID-19 restrictions.

In a statement to CTV News the Waterloo Catholic District School board that reads in part:

“In regards to the potential for an outdoor graduation, we are concerned as to how this proposal meshes with the guidance under each phase of the provincial re-opening plan," the Waterloo Catholic District School Board said in a statement. "We know this is an important milestone but don’t clearly understand just yet what the government is proposing and how it will honour the safety protocols that we are all being asked to observe."

The statement continues: "Currently we have virtual graduations planned and they will proceed. Beyond that, we have not made any new plans at this time.”

The Waterloo Region District School Board is also waiting for further information before finalizing graduation plans.

“The Premier announced earlier this week that students will be invited to celebrate their graduation in person at school in June for a short, outdoor celebration, where physical distancing is possible. With further information from the Ministry of Education and in consultation with Public Health, we will provide more details on what in-person outdoor graduations will look like," the board said in a statement.

Although local school boards and unions are still waiting on clarification from the province, many parents have said they do not think that in-person graduation ceremonies are a good idea at this point.

The school year wraps up in three-and-a-half weeks.