The 2020 Salmon Arm Secondary grads won’t be able to pack an auditorium like celebrations of previous years but efforts are being made to recognize them and other grads from Shuswap schools. (File photo)

Grad celebrations in the Shuswap adapting to COVID-19

Grads at Salmon Arm Secondary, Eagle River Secondary and Chase Secondary will still be recognized.

When planning began on the June 2020 graduation ceremony for Grade 12 Salmon Arm Secondary students, it did not look like any of the pomp and circumstance present in other years would be able to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the graduation date draws closer and B.C.’s restart plan proceeds, it seems grads will get their walk across the stage in front of family members after all.

According to a notice posted to Salmon Arm Secondary’s website, the school will be having a graduation ceremony but in a fashion befitting the provincial guidelines aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Professional photographers and videographers have been hired to create a grad video and to take photos at the ceremony including shots of grads crossing the stage and with family. The videos of the grads crossing the stage as well as speeches from dignitaries and valedictorians will be compiled into a digital graduation ceremony.

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Filming of the digital ceremony will take place at Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan campus and be spread out over Tuesday, June 16 and Wednesday, June 17. Parents and guardians will be able to attend the taping up to a maximum of four guests per grad. The digital ceremony will be made available for the school community to watch simultaneously online at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 26.

In recognition of the grads whose last semester of high school has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, SAS will be putting up a billboard with their names outside the school’s front entrance. It will stand until the names of the class of 2021 are put up next June creating a new annual tradition.

The City of Salmon Arm has also allowed the school to use the digital display sign at the Shaw Centre to display the names of grads in June.

Elsewhere in the Shuswap, other high schools are finding ways to have graduation ceremonies move forward amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

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Eagle River Secondary in Sicamous will also be employing a professional videographer with plans to splice the clips of grads crossing the stage together into a production that will simulate a grad ceremony in a year not affected by COVID-19. The ceremony will be taped on Wednesday, June 3.

ERS principal Mark Marino said the school is considering a couple of options for coming together in a safe way to watch the recorded ceremony on June 23.

Marino said the preferred option would be to screen the ceremony at the Starlight Drive-In in Enderby but restrictions placed on drive-in theatres including a 50-car limit may get in the way if they aren’t relaxed. He said other possibilities include a staggered viewing at the school or simply putting the video online. Recognizing the grads remains a top priority.

Marino said ERS’ small graduating class of only 25 students this year makes it possible to preserve a few grad traditions outside the main ceremony. A socially-distanced class photo will be taken and the grads will still be able to paint their parking stalls as they have in previous years.

Chase Secondary will also have its graduation ceremony professionally recorded on video. Principal Greg Gartrell said students will be given 10-minute time slots throughout the day on June 19 to cross the stage in front of a limited number of family members.

A backdrop will be provided and a professional photographer will be on hand to take photos of grads and their families. Gartrell said staff will be there to wish the grads well and grads will also be able to do the Chase Secondary tradition of a last walk through the halls.

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