CALGARY -- The class of 2021 won't be celebrating the end of their high school era with big bashes. For the second straight year, typical graduation ceremonies and banquets are cancelled.

The Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District are not going ahead with traditional ceremonies with large public gatherings because of COVID-19 safety protocols. 

Neither is Rocky View Schools.

"My heart goes out to all of the grade twelves out there throughout the country, because I know that it’s not just Alberta going through this," said Justis MacMaster, who will be graduating from Springbank Community High School in the Rocky View Schools division. 

MacMaster admits she felt some relief that she had one year left of high school when the pandemic prompted the cancellation of 2020 ceremonies as she thought she would still have a ‘normal’ grad to look forward to. She realized grad wouldn’t be as she had hoped when the third wave hit and variant cases were on the rise. 

"I was so excited and then, as soon as I got the news, I was just crushed," said MacMaster. "It’s been a lot mentally to go from online to in school and then at the end of it, right at the finishing mark we were just told that we get nothing."

Rocky View Schools says it will rely largely on digital convocations and the creativity of its schools to find meaningful ways of celebrating its students. It is currently reviewing individual graduation plans submitted by its schools.

MacMaster is hopeful she will be able to walk across some kind of stage, even if its a drive-by graduation like many schools had last year.

"I think it's just the memory and receiving something for working this hard and getting through 13 years of school and even getting through this pandemic."

MacMaster had been planning for some kind of party.  She purchased a pink ballgown dress in October thinking there would be some kind of formal event. The 17-year-old and some friends will still dress up and have professional photos taken outside to celebrate. 

School Boards Cancel Traditional Ceremonies

The Calgary Board of Education informed students and parents at the end of January that formal banquets and dances would not go ahead this spring. Any ceremonies will take place in its schools.

The CBE said details are being worked out and all activities will follow public health protocols.

The Calgary Catholic School District said it is planning to accommodate ceremonies that are meaningful for students without the need for gatherings. 

Premier Jason Kenney was asked about graduations during a Facebook Live session Tuesday evening. 

The premier said outdoor events will likely be permitted next month and graduations may be possible if schools can delay events until closer to the end of the school year. 

"If schools can plan for outdoor events, especially later, more towards the end of June, I think that's something we can accommodate."

Formal Weat Stores Also Impacted

The manger at Ethos Bridal anticipated business would bounce back in 2021, but sales are down 30 to 40 percent from the store's 2019 numbers.

"I think it's just because so many of the girls, they weren’t sure if the grad is happening or not happening," said Jamie Nasr, "if they’re doing a drive-thru or just having a gathering in a backyard."

Nasr said many teens have purchased dresses and many shopped early since the minimum time to order a dress is three months. But with so much uncertainty, there has been last minute shoppers. 

"Definitely the girls, they do fall in love with their dress, they do want to take the pictures they do want to be with their friends. So definitely some of the girls who made the decision to get the dress based on they know they want to have pictures for sure."

Nasr said typically grad dress sales account for 20 per cent of the store's business. 

She said the alterations department has also been in limbo wondering when teens will be picking up their dresses.