TVDSB to hold virtual grad ceremonies as most students aim for in-class learning this fall

The Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) is moving ahead with virtual graduation ceremonies, but isn't ruling out future outdoor events.

The board says all schools will hold virtual events for graduating Grade 8 and Grade 12 students, but it is still exploring possible in-person recognitions.

In a statement, TVDSB Education Director Mark Fisher said, "We understand how important it is for students, families and staff to have an opportunity to reconnect in person to mark the end of the school year."

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced schooling would remain virtual for the rest of the year, but hoped to see, “in-person, outdoor graduation events” so students could “reconnect outside before the end of the year.”

In the first stage of the provincial reopening rules, which are expected to take effect by June 14, outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed.

Fisher responded Thursday,  “With just weeks until the end of the school year, we are still waiting for details from the province about how in-person activities could take place while respecting existing public health guidelines."

For now, the board says student trustees will reach out to other students to gather ideas for potential in-person activities, public health measures permitting.

“Teachers, students and families have already put tremendous effort and time into organizing and preparing virtual ceremonies and those events will move ahead as planned,” said Fisher. “We need to celebrate this important milestone."

With students unable to celebrate together, CTV News London will be feature graduation photos on-air and online.

Viewers can send photos and some background information to londonnews@ctv.ca for consideration.

Majority of student want in-class learning

While some families are planning their own COVID-19-safe graduation get-togethers, they can't take the place of celebrating with friends, and that lack is reflected in those choosing in-class learning for the fall.

The board says more than 95 per cent of students have chosen to go back to the classroom for 2021-2022, versus 88 per cent this past year.

"We want students to get back in school to be learning with and from their friends, to be participating in extra-curricular, doing cross-country playing football," Fisher says. "Doing all of those things, you know music that makes school such a great place to be. And we’re really looking forward to try slowly and safely re-instituting all those important facets of an education."

- With files from CTV News London's Nick Paparella