Hamilton Mountain students eye fall graduation ceremonies:Online learning vital during pandemic #learnfromhome

Our plan, at this time, is to present our students with a commemorative keepsake in June and then to invite these students to attend a typical graduation ceremony in October,” DiFrancesco said.

He noted that while online learning will never replace face-to-face teacher-led classroom instruction, Di Francesco said many teachers may incorporate some form of online instruction in the future.

Over at Sir Allan MacNab high school student council president Fareeha Hassan said a lot of the students were disappointed that the spring prom and graduation have been cancelled, especially the prom.

“I really hope we get a graduation and a prom,” she said. “It’s a really important part of a student’s life.”

The 17-year-old Grade 12 student is hoping to study nursing at the McMaster campus of Mohawk College in the fall.

She was studying health care and support this semester and has been doing course work and checking in with her teacher twice a week online.

Hassan said she has had to discipline herself to sit down and do the course work and quizzes.

She prefers doing her school work in the evening.

Hassan was also able to get some co-op placement time in the pediatric and emergency departments at McMaster University Medical Centre in early March, before everything got shut down.

Working with environmental aides who keep the hospital clean, Hassan said she helped prepare for an expected influx of coronavirus patients.

“I helped set up beds for coronavirus patients,” she said. “They treated me like a part of the team.”

Another MacNab student who is disappointed that graduation has been cancelled is Maggie Brown.

The 20-year-old west Mountain resident was slated to graduate from the school’s special education program next month.

“It makes made sad,” Brown said. “I was so excited for my family to see me graduate.”

Brown said she’s been keeping busy with her online classes.

Her mother, Alex, said moving to online instruction was not a huge transition for her daughter as she had been doing online learning for years.

Alex noted her daughter and her classmates continue to meet with their teacher as a class, using video conferencing.

But for Brown it’s not the same as being at the school.

“I miss my friends and my teachers,” she said. “I’m bored and can’t wait to go back.”

MacNab principal Greg Clark said they made the decision to cancel the prom and graduation in consultation with Hamilton public health officials.

“We are looking to see what we can do in October,” Clark said. “We’re not sure what it will look like.”

Clark said about 200 Grade 12 students at the west Mountain high school will graduate this year and according to provincial guidelines the marks the students had, as of March 13, cannot go down, although students can improve their grades through online assignments and tests.

Clark said right after the March break MacNab teachers each called 20-30 students to check on their well-being.

Students, whose families are facing financial problems, are getting $50 electronic gift cards to buy groceries.

The gift card program which Clark figures will amount to “thousands of dollars” is sponsored by Tastebuds, a group of community agencies that support student nutrition in Hamilton.

“Our teachers are doing an excellent job connecting with our students by phone, email and video,” Clark said.

Rick Barker teaches Grade 12 chemistry at MacNab.

He has been recording a variety of videos in various guises to keep his students engaged.

For one lesson, he donned a long, blond wig and told his class he couldn’t get a haircut.

“A little humour goes a long way,” Barker said “The students look forward to these videos. I hope they see I am making an effort to make light of a dark situation. These videos are meant to be stress relievers for the students and hopefully encourage them to participate fully in online learning.”

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Hamilton Community News wanted to see how some Mountain schools and students were learning during the pandemic, get student thoughts on missing the traditional June graduation and see what graduation ceremonies are being planned in the future.