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  • Tracy Sherlock

B.C.'s top doctor has a message for the class of 2020

Updated: May 14, 2020

The class of 2020 won't be throwing their caps like the grads in this photo, but schools are figuring out ways to celebrate them anyway.

B.C.’s top doctor feels graduates' pain over missing out on the usual traditions, but says graduating during a pandemic is something they will never forget.

Teachers and schools are working to make grad 2020 a memorable experience, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told all graduating students in her Saturday news conference.

“You are and will always be unique among graduating classes. It has been over 100 years since we’ve had an event like this pandemic,” Henry said. “The traditional ceremonies and celebrations that we would expect to have as we make this major transition from high school to the rest of our lives are on hold right now and we won’t be doing them the same way this summer.”

Secondary schools didn’t return after Spring Break, due to covid-19, and most elementary students are not in school either. Schools have slowly been reopening for small groups of students, like the children of healthcare workers and vulnerable students, but a full-scale reopening is unlikely before September and in-person grad ceremonies are off the table.

The province has promised that everyone who was on track to graduate will graduate, despite covid-19, and that’s the priority. But fancy dresses, tuxedos, proms and graduation ceremonies are a rite of passage the class of 2020 will not experience in the same way.

Henry commended students for the creative ways young people are finding to commemorate this important occasion in a safe and virtual way. I’d love to hear about any innovative graduation celebrations happening in B.C. Send me your stories to the email below.

Henry had advice for all young people, urging them to get outside and burn off steam every day.

“I know many of us are feeling the fatigue and the frustration of maintaining safe physical distance and not seeing our friends and having to connect with people in a non-physical way,” Henry said. “It’s especially challenging for young people whose main connections are often related to friends and school. … It can be very challenging to have your family around you all the time. I want you to know you're not alone.”

Her advice to parents who are feeling stressed with home schooling their children is to do what they can.

“When you are working from home and not used to home schooling, I can understand that this is tough and exhausting,” Henry said. “There is no such thing as perfect. It is an unattainable concept and none of us should be striving for it.”

Any parents or children who need help can call the Kids’ Helpline at 1-800-680-4264, Dr. Henry said.

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