Recent NSCC Strait Area Campus graduates are seen here before receiving their diplomas during the graduation ceremony at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre on June 15, 2019.

Surely some solutions can be found to allow Grade 12 graduates to mark this special milestone.

Education department communications officer JoAnn Alberstat told The Reporter officials are trying to figure out what type of recognition can take place.

Last month, education minister Zach Churchill promised Grade 12 students, an opportunity to celebrate when it is safe.

Without anything announced, in a Letter to the Editor in the May 20 edition of The Reporter, John Ouellette of Port Hawkesbury asked that Premier Stephen McNeil provide a mandate for Churchill, the Regional Centres for Education, as well as high schools, to figure this out together.

In his letter, Ouellette said parents are eager and ready to help but have been told they cannot plan any officially sanctioned graduation activities without direction from the premier, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP), and the Strait regional centre for education (SRCE).

Just from initial discussions, Ouellette said he has heard innovative and safe ideas for marking graduation, including using outdoor drive-in movie theatres and airstrips. Noting that young people in the province “need this celebration,” Ouellette asked that provincial officials trust parents, students and schools to get it right.

By depriving students, parents and teachers of celebrations, Ouellette argued that the province is sending a message that Grade 12 students can be trusted to pack groceries during a pandemic but not to plan their own graduations.

The other risk of not allowing graduation to be recognized is that some parents and students may decide to hold their own events that do not meet public health guidelines, Ouellette noted.

During a press briefing on May 8 in Halifax, Premier Stephen McNeil announced that all schools in Nova Scotia will remain closed until September but at-home learning will continue until June 5 and teachers will work until the end of June to finalize student assessments.

Regional Centres for Education and the CSAP are working with schools to develop plans to retrieve student belongings.

In a letter dated May 19, regional executive director of education Paul Landry, said principals will allow public access to schools from June 8-12. Landry said school access will be limited to a single student or family member and will be by appointment only.

Although June 8 was supposed to be the date to resume day care in Nova Scotia, last week provincial officials decided to move that date by at least a week.

It is good that provincial officials are being careful in restarting the economy and opening daycares to the public, but in the case of graduation, perhaps they can relax some control over the process.

It does not exceed reasonable expectation that parents, students, teachers, staff, and school administration are more than capable of coming up with graduation activities that fully adhere to public health protocols.

And these graduates deserve some acknowledgement. They have been deprived of a full school year, they have fulfilled their scholastic obligations, some have qualified for post-secondary education, and some have admirably served as essential workers during the COVID-19 lockdown.

While it won’t be like other years – with well attended ceremonies, proms and private gatherings – there are ways of celebrating this special time like using large areas so small groups of people can maintain six feet of distance, using on-line tools, holding smaller gatherings, and many other great ideas, can be accomplished without violating any protocols.

Everyone is more than aware of the now worn-out phrase “new normal.” The province needs show a little faith in the public and allow schools and communities to figure this out on their own. Once they do, provincial officials can review their applications, and either approve them, or suggest safer, healthier alternatives.

By loosening the reins a little, the province will have delegated authority to people on the ground who know how to do this, without ignoring its responsibility to protect the public.

Government does not have a monopoly on good ideas and now is the time to empower Nova Scotians come up with some plans.