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New Westminster May Day celebration cancelled over COVID-19

In what would have been the celebration's 150th anniversary year, the school district has been forced to shut down the event in the face of the pandemic
May Day, Queen's Park
New Westminster's May Day celebrations won't be taking place this year because of COVID-19 - in what would have been the festival's 150th anniversary year.

It’s official: New Westminster’s May Day celebration won’t be marking its 150th anniversary this spring after all.

The New Westminster school district just announced that this year’s festivities will not happen as planned.

“We know how deeply connected many are to the annual festivities, and this was to be a milestone year as the 150th celebration,” wrote school district superintendent Karim Hachlaf in a letter to parents, students and staff. “We acknowledge the additional disappointment this adds.”

Hachlaf’s letter noted the district has already had to make many changes to how it conducts business in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak and it has been taking guidance and direction from health authorities.

Most notable among those changes has been the suspension of in-class instruction and the move to home learning on an indefinite basis, along with the closure of school playgrounds.

“In every decision we make, we must keep the safety of our community as our top priority,” Hachlaf wrote. “And that means considering how requirements around limited gathering sizes, safe physical distancing and the general advice to ‘stay home when you can’ affects all that we do.”

Hachlaf’s letter thanks the students, staff and neighbours who stepped up to help but says cancelling the event was “the only appropriate decision.”

“We must continue to work collaboratively, in all we do, to help flatten the curve. We must all be in this together,” he said.

The future of May Day in New Westminster has long been uncertain, as the school district had previously announced that it would no longer participate in the festival after 2020. It had already made a number of changes to the event, including moving instruction in the folk and maypole dances – which used to happen on class time – to outside of school hours.

The plan has been for the event to be taken over by a community group.

The Record will continue to follow this story. Watch for further updates next week.