The Guildford Learning Centre held its 2020 commencement at Peace Portal Alliance Church in South Surrey on June 15, 2020. The church has been offering its building to Surrey schools for commencement ceremonies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photos: Lauren Collins)

Surrey grads find a new way to celebrate during COVID-19 pandemic

Surrey Schools Superintendent says it’s ‘no question it isn’t grad as normal’

Surrey Schools Superintendent Jordan Tinney says “there’s no question it isn’t grad as normal” this year.

As the COVID-19 pandemic set in and in-class instruction was suspended indefinitely in March, graduates throughout Surrey wondered if they’d be able to celebrate the milestone with their classmates.

READ ALSO: Surrey parents, students navigate remote learning during COVID-19, April 3, 2020

Graduation, which can include the commencement ceremonies, a dinner/dance and dry grad, is something that many students look forward to for years and start planning for in the fall.

L.A. Matheson Grade 12 student Rajinder Kalsi previously told the Now-Leader it felt like a milestone was being missed.

“It’s just unfortunate because we know we can’t do much about it because of what’s happening in the world right now,” she said. “We won’t be able to celebrate the way that our older siblings have, or the people in Grade 11 right now. We’re not going to be able to celebrate like they’re going to celebrate.”

Then June 1, a hybrid form of in-class learning started up again and with it came the opportunity for grad ceremonies – but unlike any year before.

While the dinner/dance and dry grad events still aren’t possible due to limits on gatherings, schools still managed to rework commencement ceremonies to celebrate the grads.

So far, several Surrey high schools have used space offered by Peace Portal Alliance Church in South Surrey, others have hosted socially distanced events in the schools and one even held a “drive-in commencement.”

“We’ve got everything from outdoors, to, of course the volunteer church in the south, we have limited numbers in gyms, we’ve got one in which they’re doing a drive-through with the grads,” said Tinney.

“Grad is a special moment, but it’s very different and looks very different all across the district this year.”

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has also addressed the 2020 graduating class on several occasions, telling them to look at this experience as a unique and historic one.

VIDEO: Dr. Bonnie Henry offers words of encouragement to B.C.’s 2020 graduating class, May 2, 2020

“Reaching this milestone during an unprecedented global pandemic, shows that British Columbia’s class of 2020 has the resiliency to take on anything,” she said in June. “I know this has been a challenging time, but there are so many exciting adventures ahead. Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.”

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