CORNWALL, Ontario – Despite an announcement by Ontario Premier Doug Ford that school boards would be allowed to have end of year outdoor gatherings to celebrate the end of the school year, that likely will not be happening at schools in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region.
“[Ford] took us all by surprise,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, medical officer of health for the EOHU. “He took me by surprise. He took my colleagues by surprise. He took school boards by surprise.”
Roumeliotis explained that changing existing plans so close to the end of the school year was difficult to manage.
“The school boards called us,” he said. “They are trying to manage something. It’s difficult to do and I don’t know that they’ll be able to manage.”
Roumeliotis added that he knew that some boards have already said that they can’t change existing plans.
Ontario will enter Step One of its latest reopening plan on June 11.
Larger outdoor groups and gatherings cannot start happening until Step Two of that plan. The earliest Ontario can move into Step Two is July 2.
The Upper Canada District School Board had already released plans for virtual or drive through graduation ceremonies for graduating Grade 12 students.
This includes plans at Seaway District High School in Iroquois, which will hold its drive through ceremonies during the last week of June for Grade 12 students.
“We are sticking with our plan for virtual graduation as per practices in each individual school,” said UCDSB chair John McAllister.
He went on to characterize the Premier’s announcement as “contradictory, unrealistic, and awkward.”
“It was also disrespectful frankly to the preparations that our teachers and principals in all the schools that have been undertaking,” McAllister expanded. “This is not something you can take and turn around on a dime. Unfortunately [Ford] raised expectations at the last minute unrealistically. This is not the kind of support that we need.”
According to the UCDSB chair, other boards in Eastern Ontario are not following through with the Premier’s announcement. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board announced on June 7 that it would proceed as it had already planned.
No confirmation was received by publication time of the CDSBEO of its intentions for graduation changes.
In a statement, the Ontario Principals’ Council rejected Ford’s move to have in-person gatherings by the end of the school year.
“With only a few weeks left until the academic year ends, schools have already made plans to celebrate their graduates. It is unrealistic and disrespectful to Ontario educators to expect such a considerable shift in planning at this point in the school year,” the council said in a statement.
The 2020-21 school year ends for most school boards on June 28.
This story was originally written for, and appeared in, The Morrisburg Leader.