Pomp and Pandemic Circumstance

Kootenay Lake School District 2020 Graduates find new ways to celebrate

An important reminder that many of the events are not able to have guests, students only, so please contact the school first for clarification.

For so many high schools across the country, graduation ceremonies are going to look different this year. Many are holding virtual events or drive-through celebrations or even postponing their ceremonies in hopes of having them in person. But some schools are finding safe ways to make sure the show goes on this June.

Protocols and the new normal is forcing Kootenay Lake School District administrators to get creative for upcoming Class of 2020 ceremonies. Many are doing their best to maintain some of the traditional pieces in a year where celebrating looks completely different.

Each of the six secondary schools in the Kootenay Lake School District is honouring their graduates this year with some type of ceremony planned, one that will each uniquely acknowledge the accomplishments and achievements of their grade 12s.

"This year will be the most memorable graduation in school district history," said Superintendent Dr. Christine Perkins.

Here is a look at what each of the schools in our district is doing to commemorate this year:



Large composite banners of the 2020 PCSS graduating class will be unfurled on the front of the high school in Creston on June 1st. Prince Charles will be the first high school in the district to hold their private graduation ceremony and will do so over a two-day period.

Students will enter a physically distanced formal procession, six at a time. The plan is stringent out of necessity to keep everyone safe and follow safety protocols. Staging will begin in the parking lot and continue on a one-way track through the gym to gown up and then proceed into the auditorium where they’ll be granted the tradition to still walk the stage.

Many PCSS staff and teachers stepped forward to volunteer to help at the different stations.  “We’ve really been missing the students these past few months,” shared teacher Brooke Douma. Douma and fellow teacher Mary Radonic have been working hard behind the scenes to organize all the details for graduation. “We’ve developed relationships with these kids over their time at PCSS and this may be our only chance as teachers to wish them well.”

Even PCSS alumni are coming forward to help mark this important milestone for the students. Cami Kepke graduated from PCSS in 2012 and has gone on to attain a successful career as an anchor and reporter for Global TV in Calgary. Cami is volunteering her time and to bring her cameras and equipment to Creston to document this year’s ceremonies. “We are pretty thrilled that Cami has offered to help us produce a professionally made video.” said Douma

In addition, the video will include the taping of the formal speeches as well as a compilation of farewell messages from teachers and guest alumni. “We want them to have something meaningful as a keepsake and know how much we all care.”



Outgoing Principal Glen Campbell never envisioned his final graduation ceremony would be a virtual rendering of one, after having been a part of grad for the past 31 years at Mt. Sentinel Secondary.

“It’s going to look very different, but I am optimistic we have the ability to turn it into something unique and special.” says Campbell.

Mt. Sentinel is also planning a physically distanced ceremony June 3-5th and will be drawing on the expertise and skillset of their Performance Academy program students for the filming, editing and video production of all the moving parts. 

Academy PM teacher Jacy Schindel is confident his students can produce a professional product comparable to what any video company could and since they are doing it in-house, it creates the flexibility to let the process breathe.

“Grad is such an important rite of passage,” says Schindel, “and especially for this year’s group of grads, we have the unique opportunity to slow everything down and spend more time with each one, to congratulate them and honour their hard work and individual accomplishments.”

The younger students in the Academy program are thrilled to have been called on to help as they recognize the disappointment felt by the graduating class. Thoughts around how their involvement and assistance could extend even further have already materialized and the group will be assisting Salmo Secondary with their video production.

“You never know,” said the other PM Academy teacher, Danny Leeming, “this could be the start of a new tradition, and something our students can help with every year!”



With a little help from Mt. Sentinel Secondary Academy students, the graduating class at Salmo Secondary this year will each receive a digital keepsake of their unprecedented Cap & Gown ceremony.

Every student graduating this year from Salmo Secondary has achieved a scholarship, and the ceremony will include a personalized reflection of each student’s growth and accomplishments.

“Grad in the past has been likened to attending a Kootenay wedding!” said Vice-Principal Misty Terpstra. “While it may look different this year, this town is like one big family, and these kids deserve to be recognized.”

A local family has donated their timber-frame billboard space to display photos of the graduating class. The billboard is visible from the highway outside of town. Many other parents and community members have come forward to ensure graduation will be something to remember.

The staff and teachers at Salmo Secondary also wanted to do something special to honour their grads on June 9th. In the past few weeks they have learned and practised the ‘Travelling Song’, an indigenous song taught to them by Gail Higginbottom, District Principal of Aboriginal Education. “The Travelling Song was first created in 1986 by a group of elders in Banff, AB, and is a song that is not sung in any one language, honouring many nations, and the journey forward.” shared Higginbottom.

VP Misty Terpstra want them to know that “wherever their journeys take them from here on, the entire Salmo Secondary school family is proud of all of them and wishes them the best of luck!”



All four graduating students from the Homelinks program this year will be honoured and gifted as individually planned with their families of Lower Kootenay Band. Each year, Aboriginal Education hosts a special grad honouring ceremony as part of Pow Wow to congratulate Aboriginal graduates and all of the family and community supports that have walked with them on their journeys towards achieving this milestone. This year, Aboriginal honouring ceremonies will continue in each school!

Every single Aboriginal Education grad in the District will also be gifted at each of their respective individual schools.



LVR graduates are accustomed to having their say when it comes to grad. The ‘Say Somethings’ is a long standing tradition that invites students to share their short or long term plans, a thank you or where they see themselves in the future.

At this year’s unique recording of their commencement ceremony on June 12th, each graduate’s name will be called to virtually receive their diploma and then a special ‘Say Something’ curated by the students themselves will be read aloud. The whole ceremony will be video recorded and released at the end of June to students and families.

When asked what he might say, Grade 12 LVR student and SD8 student trustee Harlan Hofmann-Miller conveyed the understandable disappointment that many grads are feeling this year. However, he also expressed from what he has observed amongst his classmates, “Overall, I think we are doing okay. Everyone is doing their best to deal with what we’ve been dealt.”

Harlan also shared his experience as a senior these last few months and described how the necessity to shift to online learning in the final semester of high school has actually provided some reprieve for some students, during what normally would be a very hectic time. “A lot of grads suffer from ‘Senioritus’ in the spring of their graduating year.” Said Hofmann-Miller, “And while finishing this year has been confusing overall, it has at least slowed things down a little.” 

When asked what he would say to his fellow graduating classmates, Harlan offered this: “Try and contain your disappointment. The whole world is disappointed in a lot of things right now. Grad is still important; however it looks, and we should all feel good about that accomplishment.”

On Wednesday, June 24th and Thursday, June 25th, Grads will be invited to a safe and physically distanced opportunity to pick up their diploma and souvenir cap at the school in the courtyard. Staff and teachers are looking forward this final connection with the graduates and are planning a small, celebratory entrance that will include music, photos, and well-wishes from available staff.



The 2020 graduating class of Crawford Bay School will commemorate their year with a letterman jacket. Letter jackets have been a symbol of excellence and prestige in the education sector since 1865! It all started at Harvard when a baseball coach rewarded his athletes with wearable memorabilia: a letterman jacket for their athletic prowess. He wanted a unique way to make his best players shine even more.

Hopefully the special ordered jackets will arrive before June 19th when the students will enjoy a ride through town on an SD8 school bus where the community has been invited to come out on the streets and wish them well. The parade will convene at 5 pm and complete a full loop through the townsite and end up back at the school.

Due to the smaller number of graduating students, they can have a limited number of guests attend the Cap & Gown ceremony in the school field. Students will be spread out wheel-wise in the field, at the end of each spoke, and while they may not be able to invite everyone they wished for, they can at least enjoy an evening BBQ in their honour with some guests.

“It was their idea to order the jackets!” exclaimed CBESS teacher Kristy Winger who has been integral to organizing the grad event this year. “Normally the monies raised for graduation would go to a caterer and grad night decorations, but then everything changed this spring of course.”

The eight graduating students from Crawford Bay will also receive a video of their ceremony proceedings to go along with their new jackets. “We wish these kids the very best and they will at least all go out in style!” says Principal Rod Giles



Kaslo has its revered graduation traditions but the focus this year might be all about starting some new ones! School Counsellor Meleana Terlingen has been keeping up with the constant changes during COVID-19, and helping the students come to terms with what graduation will look like, albeit different from what they imagined.

“I was expecting blowback and disappointment of course,” says Terlingen, “but this group is taking it in stride and nobody is singing the blues!” JV Humphries has 22 graduates for 2020, many of whom have been choosing to come to the school since it has been slowly opening to focus on finishing their work.

“These students are resilient and have spoken up for what feels important to them,” said Principal Dan Rude.
A drive-in style ceremony has been planned, somehow suitable for the picturesque historic town. Each grad and family will remain separated along the roadway in front of the school where students' names will be called over the sound system to come forward to receive their diploma and scholarship letters, take photos and then return to their car before the next student is called.

Small town traditions do die hard, and the school is happy it can proceed with the formal Cavalcade in formalwear in separate cars. There will also be a physically distanced walking procession down Front street led by a bagpiper, who happens to be the grandfather of one of this year’s graduates!

Local photographer Louis Bockner has stepped forward to record the ceremonies and speeches, as well as take professional photos of each student. Grad photos will also go on a banner display on Front Street in Kaslo.

“We talked about postponing until a later time,” said Terlingen, “but the students having been working hard towards this, and they are ready for their finale!” 


Special Graduation Events and Ceremonies

Across our district, these events have been planned for each secondary school to honour our graduates in the best way we can. Plans are subject to change, so check your school or the district website for the latest updates.

An important reminder that many of the events are not able to have guests, students only, so please contact the school first for clarification.


For more information:

Dr. Christine Perkins, Superintendent

About The Board of Education of School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake):

The Board of Education of School District No. 8 provides educational services to numerous diverse communities in the East & West Kootenays, including Crawford Bay, Creston, Kaslo, Meadow Creek, Nelson, Salmo, Slocan, South Slocan, Winlaw, Wynndel and Yahk. Its dedicated team focuses on providing the best possible educational opportunities for over 5,400 students and their families. Its mission is to focus on excellence for all learners in a nurturing environment.