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High school students celebrating graduation with ceremonies adapted for social distancing

Graduation ceremonies for students at Canmore Collegiate High School, Banff Community High School and Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy will look a little bit different this year
As a result of protocols in place to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, high school graduation ceremonies in the Bow Valley will look a little different this year. RMO FILE PHOTO

BOW VALLEY – Students graduating from high schools in the Bow Valley will celebrate the milestone differently this year with ceremonies adapted to allow for social distancing requirements. 

Banff Community High School principal Natasha Miles said over two days in June, grads will take part in a series of small ceremonies at the Tunnel Mountain Reservoir. Each mini-ceremony will host seven graduates with their invited guests, staff from the school and a Canadian Rockies Public School Trustee.

"Each ceremony will be videotaped and the professional videographer will put them together and make a compilation," Miles said during the May 27 school board meeting. "We have worked closely with the Town of Banff and the public health officer running our plans past them.

"They have given us guidance around social distancing."

Miles said a parent committee has organized a drive-in event on June 25, during which the video compilation will be screened for the graduating class to watch from their vehicles. 

Canmore Collegiate High School principal Chris Rogers said plans are in the works for graduates to participate in a parade of vehicles through the community on June 19. 

The procession will occur between 1-3 p.m. and begin at the Canmore Nordic Centre. With 90 grads this year, Rogers said one per vehicle will be allowed, with the route to the high school going across the Bow River bridge, past the Bow River Seniors Lodge on Fairholme Drive, then along 17th Street to the Rec Centre parking lot. 

A stage will be set up in the parking lot, which will be closed to the public to allow for the graduation ceremony. The event will also be livestreamed to allow more people to be part of it, without being physically present and increasing the numbers of people gathering in one place. 

Rogers said that while this may not be the grad ceremony Grade 12 students and their families thought they would be having this year, that does not mean it will be any less meaningful or enjoyable. 

"We have been working closely with our families and parents," he said. "We believe we have a way to have certificates and caps for students to pick up without directly handing them to them, or crossing a stage."  

Grads have the choice of wearing a gown, or the formal wear they were unable to wear to a banquet this year and a separate area for photographs will be set up. 

Our Lady of the Snows vice-principal Remo Targa said there are two events planned for graduates of the Catholic academy in Canmore. 

On June 18, he said there will be a graduation parade as well. Families will gather at the school at 5 p.m. and follow a predetermined route with an RCMP escort and the OLS activity bus along Dyrgas Gate and Fitzgerald Rise.

He said students are still deciding if they would like to walk the route in their gowns, or decorate their family vehicles and take part in a parade that way. 

On June 26, at 1 p.m. there will also be a virtual graduation ceremony featuring a liturgy by Bishop Wiliam McGrattan for all graduates from Christ the Redeemer schools, the southern Alberta Catholic education district. 

It will be followed by commencement and afterwards, students will proceed to the soccer field at the school for a socially distanced photo throwing their caps into the air. 

Targa said a licensed drone photographer has been hired to help capture the special moment during these unusual times. 

Officials with École Notre Dame des Monts said there are no graduates this year at that school due to it being a gap year.