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Aurora students invited to drive by school for 'Big Wave" on Wednesday

Creative events planned to mark end of school year disrupted by COVID

Aurora Middle School staff in Lac La Biche will be decked out in their best beach wear on Wednesday, sitting out in front of the school, waiting for the Big Wave.

Teachers, administrators and support staff will be in front of the school from 1pm to 3 pm, says the school's out-going principal Rob Wicker, to give students a chance to re-connect for a few moments.  The event is planned to be a drive-thru, with families driving their vehicles through the parking lot from the north entrance, passing by the staff, and rolling out towards the school's soccer fields. 

Wicker encourages families to dress up, and get into the spirit of the Big Wave. 

"Wear your summer beach gear and be ready to listen to music and wave at all the people who have missed you so much," he said, explaining that the event is as much for school staff as it is for the students and their families. "This is an opportunity to reconnect in a small way in order to communicate that the students are important to us, that we care for them and that we hope they have a wonderful summer."

Wednesday's Big Wave is also a way to bring something fun to the otherwise unusual COVID-19 events that have kept schools closed since March. 

"It also provides a little bit of closure to the school year and lets everyone know that we are all safe and doing well," said Wicker, who will start the next school year as principal of the neighbouring Vera M. Welsh Elementary School.  "It has been a difficult three months for everyone, s having the opportunity to see our students in person will be good for all of us."

Wicker and the Aurora staff hope to see as many families and students take part in the Big Wave event, and he says families can drive the loop as many times as they like.

"Feel free to drive around and wave again," he said. "We truly miss our students and it will be great to see their smiling faces in person,"

There are some 'beach rules' for the drive-by event. Organizers are asking families to not leave their vehicle or pass others if there is a line. They also say that as there is no safe way to give or receive gifts while maintaining social distancing, staff will not be approaching vehicles.


virtual grad
Grad events

Aurora's Beach themed event comes a day after Beaver Lake Cree Nation's Amisk School holds its end of the year event. Also planned as a drive-thru event, Amisk School principal Darlene Cardinal says students from the community's Head Start program will be included in the end-of-year ceremony that will have a traditional Indigenous theme centred around a large outdoor tipi.

"We'll have the little ones right up to our high school graduates," said Cardinal, explaining that while Amisk does offer a cyber program that can take students through to Grade 12, there are no students currently graduating from it — so students from the Beaver Lake community who graduated from area high schools like J. A. Williams will be honoured.

On June 26, J.A. Williams High School graduates will take part in their own virtual grad that will include a parade along Beaver Hill Road toward the high school. This week, in the days leading up to the virtual grad, students will be collecting caps and gowns from school staff at the school.

Northern Lights School Division board of trustees chairperson Arlene Hrynyk has recorded grad messages for five high schools in the division, plus outreach schools. Her words were in the Lac La Biche and Plamondon area's graduation pull-out section in last week's Lakeland This Week. Trustees across the division have also recorded their own commencement messages that have been played at end-of-the year events from Cold Lake to Caslan. And while the trustees may get to be in the spotlight for the events, Hrynyk says the full credit for the unique and creative events lies with school staff, parents and families who have worked dilligently behind the scenes.

"We are always honoured to be part of the events, that's part of our mandate. Education is our mandate as a board of trustees — but the schools and parents do  this remarkable job. Very cool."


Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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