COVID-19’s impact on graduation ceremonies

In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, nothing is normal. Education is being done by online instruction from pre-school through university. But for students in 12th and sixth grades, outside of all-important national exams, many are wondering how the graduation ceremony will be impacted by the new coronavirus, and how their institution will handle an occasion that is a ceremony of pride for people, as the ceremony signifies their child/children completing one phase of their life, and moving on to the next step.

Noel Seymour, 17, a St. Anne’s School graduating senior, said she is disheartened by the possibility that she may not have a graduation ceremony due to the pandemic.

“I have spent the last three years of my high school career in preparation for my graduation date by involving myself in clubs, becoming more focused academically and participating fully in school activities. Not only is this a blow on me, it has also impacted my family who have not only financially supported me throughout school, but have also pushed me throughout my high school career because they also would not see the fruit of their labor.”

Seymour is also disappointed she won’t be afforded the opportunity to participate in her school’s blue mass, an event unique to her school and held annually to give 12th grade students their blessings to not only physically leave school, but spiritually as well.

“Blue mass is definitely gone. I don’t know about graduation,” Seymour told The Nassau Guardian. “But I really do care about both.”

Queen’s College (QC) principal Reverend Henry Knowles said his institution has not made an official decision as to a graduation event as yet, and were still discussing their options.

Knowles said at QC, they are still actively developing plans based on the three possible scenarios: graduation happens, but with some social distancing involving students, teachers and limited audience; a graduation ceremony happens with strict social distancing involving students but limited teachers and a very limited audience; or a graduation ceremony cannot happen and will be done virtually using mixed delivery platforms.

“We continue to remain in regular communication with health officials to receive predictions on what life may look like in June. At present, it is still too far out for them to assure us of anything, so we will keep our options open for another week or two,” said the principal.

“If the ceremony does happen virtually, we will ensure that it is of the highest caliber that our students and parents will be more than pleased. Queen’s College students worked hard and we are ever so proud of them and will want to do our best for them.”

QC’s graduation date is June 12. Their graduating class is about 150 students.

Knowles assured that diplomas for seniors won’t be sent via mail.

“We would find a more personable way to get diplomas to our graduates beyond resorting to placing them in the mail [as] many of our students have been with us for over 14 years,” he said.

Claudette Rolle, Catholic Board of Education (CBE) director, said the board has not made an official decision as to graduation ceremonies as yet, or the Exodus Mass for sixth-grade students.

“We have not yet decided how both events would unfold, but will have a response by May 18,” said Rolle.

“Virtual meetings have been held with 12th graders and there is one scheduled for parents. Whatever decision is made will be in keeping with the Ministry of Health’s protocols for gathering. For the high schools, we will have to be guided in our decisions by the Ministry of Education because they are still desirous of having the national examinations. Any date we decide will have to be based on their schedule, so we don’t want to communicate a decision before mid-May. Additionally, the protocols for the way examinations are invigilated may also change, and this will affect schedules if we decide to have final exams for grade levels that are not writing examinations.”

CBE schools will graduate 114 seniors and 222 sixth-grade students.

Schools have been closed since March 16, with in-person, face-to-face learning suspended after The Bahamas confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus.

It was in mid-April that Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd told The Guardian that while students will graduate, it is unlikely that there will be graduation ceremonies.

The country is under a state of emergency until the end of May, with weekday curfews and weekend lockdowns.

The Bahamas had 83 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths, 25 recovered cases, eight hospitalized cases and 47 active cases yesterday; and tests have been completed on 1,391 people. Worldwide there were 3,476,021 confirmed cases, 246,027 deaths and 1,113,454 recovered cases.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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