The Mount Bake Secondary School Class of 2021 will have a graduation ceremony.
The grad class will be holding a closed-door ceremony where students will cross a stage at the Key City Theatre to receive their high school diploma in an COVID-safe event on Wednesday, June 23.
It will be video recorded, edited and posted online the next day, where graduates will be able to take in the proceedings — which will include some other video vignettes — with their loved ones in their own personal COVID-safe environments.
“We put two options that we could do by the students and they voted on whether they wanted to do something similar to last year where we had a drive thru, and then parents could be in cars with kids, or whether they wanted to physically cross a stage — to do that we couldn’t have an audience,” said Dave Hill, principal of Mount Baker Secondary School.
“The kids opted for crossing the stage, they wanted that traditional feel.”
The two options presented to students came out of a lot of discussions and ideas with an eye on staying on top of pandemic rules and protocols, according to Hill.
“What we’ve learned, if we’ve learned anything, is be prepared for things to change,” said Hill. “So, that means our rules are the same as they were at the beginning of the year, as far as assemblies, but grad is considered a school activity, so we are allowed to have a commencement ceremony. It falls in lines with the ministry guidelines.”
Following the recording of the graduation ceremony, local businesses have partnered together to offer COVID-safe environments with photo booths, “mocktails” and prizes from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sherry Jackson, with Hot Shots Cafe, said the idea was born from conversations with some of her young employees who were lamenting the lack of a traditional commencement ceremony.
At the time of those conversations, indoor dining was still restricted under the provincial government’s pandemic protocols, and the initial idea was to take advantage of an empty indoor cafe space.
“Originally we thought, ‘Well, if we’re closed — hey, it’s too bad we couldn’t use our empty building to do a photo shoot for you guys and you could go around town and do some fun photos, we could do some fun drinks or something,” said Jackson. “The staff and the grads that were on [shift] said, ‘Oh, that’d be so fun’”.
“Then I thought, ‘Well, why couldn’t we do it?”
From there, the conversation grew to include other local enthusiastic businesses got involved, such as The Choice, Gerick Sports, and Denham Ford, with more details to be released in the coming days.
Each location will have a photo booth with backgrounds built by MBSS stagecraft students, along with a professional photographer and a volunteer who can help ensure COVID-19 protocols are maintained.
Additionally, Rotary Park will be cordoned off exclusively for grad-related photo opportunities.
Jackson added that local health authority representatives have been working the group and the school district to ensure the plans are good to go.
Last year’s graduation ceremony was also affected by COVID-19 protocols, as the high school held a drive-thru event, where grads lined up in vehicles and drove past school staff and Board of Education Trustees who handed out a diploma.
Hill estimates there will be approximately 260 graduating participants in the ceremony, as final graduation numbers are still in the works.