Brianna Gruber, a grade 12 student at Belmont Secondary, started a petition to have an in-person graduation ceremony rather than a virtual one. She said she has come up with ideas to ensure the ceremony would follow provincial orders in light of COVID-19. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

West Shore student petitions for more than a video graduation ceremony

Online petition receives nearly 3,000 signatures in less than one week

Students in the Sooke School District are petitioning to have a graduation ceremony after being told it would take place over a video stream.

“I was super upset to hear that because it’s a huge milestone in our lives and we won’t get that,” said Brianna Gruber, a Grade 12 student at Belmont Secondary who started the petition.

“I’m hoping the district will rethink the online ceremony and do something a little more memorable.”

In a video message, school district superintendent Scott Stinson announced grad events, including prom and graduation, would be cancelled due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions.

He said instead, a video ceremony featuring photos of graduates would be streamed live for students to watch and share. It would also feature speeches from dignitaries and valedictorians and unique touches from each school.

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Gruber said she has many ideas she’s willing to discuss with the school district that could replace an online video ceremony.

One of her ideas is a drive-thru graduation where parents can join graduates in a car, drive up to a stage, watch the graduate walk across the stage and receive their diploma and then drive away.

She also suggested smaller ceremonies that could take place in a large area such as Westhills Arena to allow for physical distancing.

“Just anything other than the video,” Gruber said. “I just feel that it’s not very memorable. I don’t feel it’s personal.”

Gruber said she doesn’t want to sound entitled and is willing to volunteer to come up with a solution.

In less than one week, Gruber’s petition garnered nearly 3,000 signatures. Within the first few hundred signatures she said she called Stinson to discuss it but was told nothing could be done.

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Stinson told Black Press Media the district reviewed all of the options to see how they would comply with provincial directives which continue into the summer and potentially next year.

“The school district has explored many options and has determined that the best way to honour and recognize all of our grads is through the video/virtual graduation,” Stinson said.

“We reviewed options from a health and safety perspective as well as through an equity lens to ensure all of our grads would have a place in the ceremony.”

Gruber said she and her friends expressed a willingness to have the ceremony at a later date as well and said she’d be calling Stinson again to see if anything else can be done.

“We want to be able to wear our caps and gowns and walk across the stage,” Gruber said. “It’s about the memories you make and the photos you share.”

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