Message from Superintendent

April 17, 2020

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Special Announcement from Superintendent Dr. Curtis Jones

This has been a very challenging time for all of us. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are experiencing what some say will be remembered as the Great Lockdown. It is changing how we see the world and each other. This experience will be in our memories, our history books and our life stories forever.

Spring is typically when we close out one chapter and begin preparing for the next. It’s a time for awards programs, senior nights, celebrations of student achievements, prom, graduation, and saying our goodbyes as we prepare for the next school year, or for seniors, their next step towards a college or a career. I want to express my sympathy for our students and teachers who will not be able to close out the year as we normally do. I recognize that while we will attempt to celebrate many of these recognitions in unique ways this year, it will not be the same. These are important milestones and the memories made are special. But it is also important that we ensure everyone remains safe, and that is why we are taking these extraordinary steps.

I am extremely proud of the efforts by our students and staff during the past few weeks. You have used this time, when we would normally be taking assessments, to instead take part in enrichment and remediation opportunities. I am excited to see that many students have improved their grades for the semester. But while there has been success, I also have heard from parents and educators about the stress this unique situation has placed on families and our staff. After speaking with the Board of Education, we have made the decision to end instruction, or eLearning, for the academic year on Friday, May 1. We will use the time from May 4-22 to engage teachers and staff in professional learning, to finalize grades, and to process the return of students’ digital equipment, textbooks, library books and instruments. Until May 1, though, we will continue learning. Students, I encourage you to use this time to continue working on improving your grades and preparing for next school year.

As for high school graduation, every senior deserves to walk across the stage and receive their diploma. For so many, this is so important, not just for the individual student, but for his or her family as well. That said, we must make decisions based on facts and not feelings. Right now, it just is not safe to hold large events, so we have made the decision to postpone graduation ceremonies from May 20-22 until July 29-30. But I must be clear: It may still not be safe in July. I don’t want to give anyone a false hope about graduation. We will reassess health and safety guidelines for large events midsummer. If we determine it is still unsafe to host the ceremonies in person, each high school will host a virtual ceremony on July 29-30. If we are able to have the ceremonies in person on July 29-30, please know these ceremonies will not be the same as they have been in the past. Tickets will be limited to a very small number, and we will continue to follow all social distancing guidelines set forth by the government and public health officials. High school principals will communicate with seniors about picking up caps and gowns, and if we decide the ceremonies must happen virtually, we will ensure graduates receive their diplomas. For those who will not be here to attend the ceremonies on July 29-30 because of college, enlistments or other reasons, I am sorry. You deserved your day.

Finally, I want to ensure you have reviewed the list of Frequently Asked Questions on our website. These FAQs, linked under “Important Information,” include guidance on grading, assessments, requesting refunds for planned activities like prom and field trips, and more. We will update the FAQs as needed while preparing to close out the year.

I shared with staff earlier this month that our goal right now is “Mission First, People Always.” I believe in it. I know we will continue working hard to finish the year on a positive note, we will ensure the safety and well-being of our staff and students, we will continue to communicate with you, and we will come out of this stronger. VIP Continues.

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