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Creative elementary school graduation in time of COVID-19

Last Updated May 20, 2020 at 7:04 pm EDT

Grade 6 student at Talmud Torah Elementary poses for graduation photo on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (CITYNEWS/Alyssia Rubertucci)

MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – While the COVID-19 pandemic has cancelled student graduations across the country, one Montreal school is getting creative.

Talmud Torah Elementary hosted a photo op for its Grade 6 graduating class on Wednesday – gown and diploma included.

“We’re very thankful,” said Grade 6 student Adam Bouganim. “They made us feel like we really graduated.

“It’s been such a long time we’ve been here – six, seven full years – and it’s very exciting. I can’t wait and I’m happy to graduate.”

The school wanted to give its graduating students a sense of closure. Classes ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and students are going straight to high school in September.

“This is a very special moment for them, it’s their graduation,” said principal Michelle Toledano. “And we really had to think outside the box for this very important milestone.

“We didn’t forget about them. We took this opportunity to really make the event for them and celebrate this tremendous milestone for them in their lives.”

The school’s 42 grads reunited on Wednesday – at a safe distance – to get their grad photo taken. The students had not seen each other in person for more than two months.

“I haven’t seen them for a long time because of the self-isolation,” said student Gabriel Fhima. “Now I get to see them again and it’s like a final goodbye.”

Added fellow graduate Stella Kalfon: “It’s sad that we don’t have a real graduation, but at least we’re doing something, so it’s cool.”

Part of the challenge for Talmud Torah was maintaining safety measures and distancing rules.

“We staggered all of the appointments so we only have one graduate come at a time,” said Toledano. “We’re keeping our distance and we’re making sure that everyone is safe and secure.

“At least we’ll have grad photos for our mosaic, which goes up every year on our walls.”

It was a symbolic moment for parents too, who were allowed to witness the rite of passage.

“This has been like a second home for them,” said parent Ethy Cohen. “Their entire education has been here. They miss their school. They miss their teachers.”

More special events and surprises are planned for the grads, including a virtual graduation ceremony being held in mid-June.