A virtual ceremony for grad 2020 in Delta

The grads of 2020 are going virtual.

The COVID-19 pandemic will not allow for traditional grad walks and ceremonies, so the Delta School District has contracted GradsBC photography & video to capture the momentous occasion for six of the seven secondary schools in the district.

North Delta Secondary is also going virtual, but according to the school district, will be handling their production in-house.

Assistant superintendent Brad Bauman said district staff, administrators, parents and students have been working hard the past few weeks trying to come up with a solution that works for all, follows all the provincial health and safety guidelines and also provides grads with an event that is memorable and befitting of this milestone.

“Everything we had planned really got thrown out the window with the pandemic,” said Bauman. “As much as in the early days post spring break when we were getting into this new mindset around teaching, we had to put discussions about grad and other district events and gatherings on hold until we had other things under control. Quite quickly though, we started to have discussions at the school level and with grad committees about what things and events might be able to go forward in different formats with social distancing considerations.”

Bauman said many ideas, both internally and externally from the community, were brought to the table. Some suggested car parades whereby the grads would travel a designated route with parents and on-lookers social distancing along the sidewalks and streets. Others suggested walks along the school athletic tracks. And while all the ideas were appreciated and well intentioned, Bauman said they needed to come up with a district-wide solution to ensure consistency and where one school was not being favoured over another.

“We looked at all the questions, comments and feedback and filtered that through all the health and safety guidelines,” he said. “There was just no way to do the grad walks and traditional ceremonies with the social distancing. The idea of parades involving our first responders – if we were to look at seven schools doing that it would be incredibly taxing for our first responders.”

Bauman said GradsBC was very appealing and was a good fit that balanced the formality and robustness of what could be done with a virtual grad ceremony where kids would be able to get a picture taken in formal, also videoed and be seen to walk across the stage in cap and gown.

“As much as it wouldn’t be in front of a live audience, it was a way where we saw a celebration could be captured virtually. It felt very turn key for us. We felt this was a premium product, honours our grads and gave everyone a bit of support in a time of uncertainty,” he said.

Each school will have designated days, still to be determined, where the grads, in small groups of 15 at a time, will go to their school and have photos and videos taken in their formal as well as in cap and gown.

Valedictory speeches will be captured, as well as scholarships and bursaries, and other speeches by administrators. Once all of that is photographed and videoed GradsBC will edit the finished product and provide a link to each school so students can share the event with their families and friends from the comfort of their homes a few weeks later.

DSS principal John Pavao and SDSS principal Terry Ainge said both schools will also be adding a few surprises to make the experience even more unique and special to each grad class.

“It will look in many respects like a normal grad through this virtual experience. It’s going to be a nice package that all the grads will get,” said Ainge. “What we cannot replicate, due to the circumstances, is that magic of being in the theatre with 300 members of your grad class and many family and friends.”

Pavao said at the end of the day, ensuring the safety of all participants was paramount.

“The grad walks are a huge community event that draws hundreds of people,” he said. “I know nothing will replicate that experience, but with the circumstances, this was the best option and the reason why all the high schools are working so hard to ensure as best an experience as possible to honour our grads.”

© Delta Optimist