Canadian Paediatric Society Calls on Education Ministries to Allow Graduations

June 10, 2020 Updated: June 10, 2020

OTTAWA—The Canadian Paediatric Society is calling on education ministries to allow safe, in-person graduations for students to help give them closure and support after a challenging end to the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The association said it’s concerned that students moving on to middle/intermediate school, high school or to college, university or the workforce will not experience the usual transition and celebration that comes with their achievement.

In a news release Wednesday, the CPS encouraged provincial and territorial education ministries and school boards to allow educators, schools and parents to collaborate and ensure there is flexibility for physically distanced graduations.

“Kids need to see their teachers, their principals, their classmates, knowing that it’s the last time they’ll be all together,” said Daphne Korczak, chair of the CPS mental health task force. “They need to have their years of hard work and achievements recognized.”

“These rites of passage are very important in helping children prepare for transition, in gaining closure on the familiarity they are leaving and prepare psychologically for the next chapter in their lives.”

With many students having had minimal if any contact with peers and teachers since March, they may not have had the typical supports before starting new academic streams for the fall or been able to visit their new schools, the CPS said.

Many in-person graduation ceremonies have shifted to a virtual model or been cancelled or postponed, leaving little opportunity for students to say goodbye and be recognized for their accomplishments.

Some provinces have eased restrictions, with Nova Scotia permitting “drive-in” graduations and Quebec’s public health department allowing Grade 6 and graduating high school students to go back to school for one final day for photos and to have their yearbooks signed, the CPS added.

Physicians who work with families and children are concerned about students’ mental health, the CPS also said, and worry about how they’ll fare in the new school year.

“Transitions are frequently points of vulnerability,” said Korczak, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. “It will be challenging for kids to look forward to September if they aren’t ready to make the move, if a part of them still feels they never really left their old school because of the abrupt end.”

The CPS represents more than 3,300 pediatricians, pediatric subspecialists and child health professionals across Canada.