Unlike students at some high schools, grads at Notre Dame and St. Joseph weren’t unable to celebrate their milestone. Events scheduled for September have been cancelled. Black Press Media file photo

Catholic grad celebrations abruptly cancelled in Red Deer

The rescheduled graduation was supposed to take place in September

Students and parents are expressing frustration after Notre Dame and St. Joseph high schools cancelled graduation ceremonies scheduled for next month.

More than 120 people have signed a petition asking the schools to recognize the graduating classes of 2020 in some way after COVID-19 wiped out their grad plans in the spring.

“It seems that the students of this grad class have not been taken into consideration in regards to the recent decision to completely cancel any graduation ceremony,” wrote a 2020 Notre Dame graduate who started the petition.

“I am not only saddened by this, but discouraged to see that the work we have done for the past 12 years has been overlooked. Notre Dame is the only high school in Red Deer that failed to do any sort of celebration for our grads. The lack of effort shown by the school is nothing short of shameful.”

Kathleen Finnigan, acting superintendent of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools, has been fielding calls and emails from upset students and parents.

In a letter to parents, she said there is no way the school can hold a graduation ceremony with the current gathering limits set by Alberta Health Services.

“We know that these are trying times in so many different ways, and that Grade 12 graduation is a highlight in many of our children’s lives. These decisions have not been taken lightly and all angles have been explored,” she said.

“For example, adhering to the limitations of the 200 people capacity at an outside event, along with the unpredictability of weather, which would not allow us to move people indoors where the restrictions only allow for 100 people in a space.

“In addition, we do not have a venue that was available to hold the celebration. Furthermore, we needed to ensure that we were maintaining the integrity of cohorting for the safety of our students (graduates), families and staff.”

Please see the attached letter with information regarding the Red Deer Catholic Graduation Ceremony for the Class of 2020

Posted by St. Joseph High School on Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Students have also voiced their disappointment on the St. Joseph’s High School Facebook page. One St. Joseph grad, Rebecca McCrae, said she’s worked hard as a student.

To be able to walk across a stage in front of my peers and my family who have been supporting me and pushing me to get to this point, what was supposed to be such a momentous occasion in a young person’s life,” she wrote.

“How dare you cancel because you don’t believe you can follow the guidelines put in place, even when ALL OTHER SCHOOLS have found a way to appropriately honor and celebrate their graduates.”

The grad who started the petition three days ago, questioned why students can return to school next week, but graduates can’t walk across the stage to celebrate their accomplishments.

“The fact that we are allowing well over 400+ students in the school come September, but then saying it’s too dangerous to hold a socially distanced graduation ceremony is ridiculous,” the student wrote.

“If we can’t have a graduation ceremony, how can you reasonably say that it’s safe for anyone to be in school? A lot has been taken from us graduates in this last year, stuff like grad skip day, our last day with our friends, grad parties, grad pranks, stuff that we will never get back, please don’t let this be another thing we don’t get. Please don’t let us down.”

Finnigan said the decision to cancel graduations was made in collaboration with high school principals.

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