WINDSOR, ONT. -- Many Grade 12 students in Ontario and across Windsor-Essex are hoping their graduation dreams won’t be crushed by COVID-19 restrictions.

St. Anne’s Grade 12 student Siobhan O’Donoghue is trying to make the best out of a disappointing graduating year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We have a slide show and a virtual aspect which is just going to be the main part where they display everyone’s name and where they are going next year and any awards they’ve received,” says O’Donoghue. “It’s better than nothing.”

The provincial stay-at-home order has already cancelled prom and it’s threatening graduation gatherings too.

“I’m really disappointed and I feel like my classmates are too and especially for this year round we were expecting a little bit more than the kids last year got,” says O’Donoghue.

The public and Catholic school boards say they are planning virtual ceremonies, with hopes of drive-by options as long as it’s within the provincial guidelines.

“We get about five or 10 minutes to go to the school and pick up our diploma,” says O’Donoghue.

That’s not enough for graduating student Anoosha Keshav, who has started a petition to allow COVID-safe outdoor grad gatherings in all of Ontario.

“We really want an outdoor graduation,” says Keshav. “We’ve been looking forward to this moment for as long as we can remember.”

The petition has garnered over 12,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning.

“The idea of an outdoor grad is honestly doable because if there are certain restrictions put in place, such as social distance, PPE,” says Keshav.

Holy Names student Chris Jaworski says he would welcome an outdoor grad.

Chris Jaworski

“Hopefully that does work out,” he says. “I’m not going to count on it, but if it does work out that would be really nice.”

Jaworski says this year has been tough and grad is supposed to be the reward.

“It kinda made me turn off mentally in the classroom like what am I doing this for there’s no in the end goal. The big celebration of four years is just kinda turned down now. So that was kind of sad to see.”

Jaworski and the rest of Ontario students will have to wait and see what the province allows after the stay-at-home order expires on June 2.