Students, families will be able to watch valedictory ceremonies together

High school graduation will be a different experience this year. But, a little movie magic will help students and families in School District No. 57 celebrate and create memories in their own ways.

Due to COVID-19 health and safety measures restricting the size of public gatherings in British Columbia, the majority of schools in the district aren’t able to hold traditional valedictory ceremonies. Finding a way to honour those members of the Class of 2020 is of paramount importance, so SD 57 has secured the services of Russell Audio-Visual to produce professional-quality valedictory videos. For seven of the nine high schools in the district, videos will be ‘revealed’ online to graduates and families at specific times later this month.

“It’s like a movie premiere,” said Deputy Superintendent Cindy Heitman. “We heard from families that it’s really important they get to celebrate with their child so this is a way they get to see things for the first time with their child.

“Graduates will get to see – with their families – the graduation ceremony.”

Schools that will have videos made for them are the Centre for Learning Alternatives, Prince George Secondary, D.P. Todd Secondary, College Heights Secondary, Duchess Park Secondary, Kelly Road Secondary and Mackenzie Secondary.
  

In each video, students will be shown in their caps and gowns, crossing the stage one-by-one and receiving their valedictory certificates in a safe manner. For all of the above schools except Mackenzie Secondary, that portion of the filming will be done at Prince George’s Vanier Hall and will capture a very basic procedure.

“They’ll get marshalled in, physically distanced, get a cue, walk across the stage, pick up their certificate, move the tassel on their cap, and walk off,” Heitman said. “That’s all they will know.”

Russell Audio-Visual will use that footage as a central piece in each video and add other elements that will be filmed separately – things like the valedictory address, the announcement of scholarship and bursary winners and, potentially, student performances. School principals and grad committees are involved in planning the unique touches that will make each final product special in its own way.

Videos will also include addresses by principals, SD 57 Superintendent Anita Richardson, a Board of Education trustee and Lheidli T’enneh Dayi (Chief) Clayton Pountney.

Heitman said families are already making celebration plans. Families will ultimately be provided with their own copies of the videos but the initial online release dates range from June 19-29.

“The dates have been organized in collaboration with the parents so they can put together watch parties and celebrations,” she said. “They’ll get to have that experience together. Kids from different families can also be communicating and celebrating together, virtually.”

The filming of individual grad classes receiving their valedictory certificates started June 4 and runs through June 11 at Vanier Hall. Russell Audio-Visual will be in Mackenzie on June 13.
   

“We understand the importance our graduates place on crossing the stage in their caps and gowns,” Richardson said. “We also acknowledge that this is an extremely difficult time for our grads and their families. This is not the way our graduates wanted or expected to celebrate the culmination of their time in the public school system. Our celebrations will look a little different but we continue to hope there will be a day we can celebrate in person.”

The 2020 graduating classes of Valemount Secondary and McBride Secondary are small enough to keep attendance at more traditional ceremonies at 50 people or below, a number mandated by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. Valemount Secondary held a ceremony (which was also livestreamed) on June 5 and McBride Secondary has one scheduled for June 20.

Russell Audio-Visual provides services for major conferences and media events. It also played a significant role in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

Owner / technical director Bill Russell established Russell Audio-Visual in 1996.