Though it wasn’t the graduation celebration they had likely envisioned for themselves, Beiseker Community School’s Grade 12 students still had the opportunity to walk the stage to receive their diplomas this spring.
On June 11, the school’s 15 seniors were recognized at a small graduation ceremony in the Beiseker Community School gymnasium. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the intimate ceremony was limited to the Class of 2021 and two teachers.
“The students and their parents were really grateful and appreciative of the opportunity to wear their cap and gown and walk across the stage in front of their peers,” said Barry Anderson, Beiseker Community School’s principal. “Still being able to go through that symbolic event was important for our students and their parents, even if the parents weren’t allowed to attend that portion of the ceremony.”
Anderson said the 2020-21 school year was a difficult one for students of all grades, as they had to manoeuvre pandemic-related health and safety measures in addition to keeping on top of their studies. On multiple occasions throughout the school year, students had to switch back and forth between at-home and in-class learning.
“It’s been a long haul, and I think COVID has made it a little more challenging for the students,” Anderson said. “Our students are facing things that students before have never really had to face. Learning from home, learning to quarantine and having to self-isolate – those are unique challenges that [neither] I nor their parents ever faced.
“It has definitely been more complicated, but our students have been really resilient, flexible and they’ve been able to adapt to those changes and continue their learning, despite all of the other events going on.”
Beiseker Community School is a K-12 school with a catchment area that includes Beiseker, Irricana and the surrounding farm and hamlet communities of Keoma and Kathyrn. The rural nature of the school means classes are small and the students get to know each other and their teachers extremely well over the years.
This year’s valedictorian was Patrick Putland, who said it was special to graduate alongside many of his friends and peers – some of whom he has known and studied alongside since preschool.
“It’s weird spending four years in one place, knowing all your teachers and friends really well and then parting ways, seeing people go off to university or the workplace,” he said. “It’s weird, but it feels good to graduate with everyone I got to graduate with and building those relationships over the years.”
Like Anderson, Putland acknowledged the 2020-21 school year was filled with unique challenges pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said the shifting back and forth between learning at home and in person meant he and his classmates were able to appreciate their final year together.
“It was definitely harder, but I think the time our class actually had in person, it felt like we were all appreciating it more this year than ever, because it was our last year and we were kind of counting down how many days left we had,” he said.
“Watching everyone go on the stage in the little ceremony we did have, some of them I’ve been with since preschool and have known them my entire life. Speaking in front of them for the last time [as a group] kind of brought a couple tears to some of our eyes, and it was special.”
Similar to the Class of 2020, on June 19, Beiseker’s senior students celebrated the completion of high school with a drive-by graduation parade through the village. While the event was not sanctioned by the school or Rocky View Schools, Putland said it was great to see the community rally together to find a safe way to celebrate the Grade 12s.