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Last day for students to be May 5; School board approves virtual GRC graduation proposal

The Clark County Board of Education approved unanimously to end the 2019-20 academic year May 5. Although May 5 will be the final official day for students, teachers will continue working until May 27 to help any students who have fallen behind or need additional help with assignments.

In addition to the change to the school calendar, the board also gave the OK for George Rogers Clark High School Principal David Bolen to pursue plans for a virtual graduation ceremony to honor the Class of 2020.

Clark Schools Superintendent Paul Christy told the board during a videoconferencing meeting that the district will reach the required 1,062 instructional hours by May 5, and recommended the board set that as the final day for students.

Christy and Chief Academic Officer Greg Hollon told the board ending the school year May 5 would provide several weeks for teachers to offer specialized instruction for students in need and to grade work and for students to complete any outstanding work.

“We still have staff in place and under contract until May 27,” Hollon said. “The idea is that this time will be used to provide remediation, pre-summer school and enrichment in different forms. We will be able to take the expertise of great teachers we have in the district to put the focus on students who struggled through the last part of the year,” because of the mandated shutdown.

Christy said this time will be used to make sure no student suffers the loss of credits or grades because of not being in school.

“This way we can focus on those who may be struggling and get them up to speed,” he said. “Our goal is to not have anyone fall behind anymore than we have by not being in class because of this mess we’re in right now.”

Board Member Gordon Parido expressed some concerns about communicating with families about the end-of-year expectations so quickly.

“It always seems that we’re behind the curve to communicate things to the community,” he said. “I’m afraid if we end on May 5 that some people are going to get left out on what needs to be done.”

Each board member expressed a desire to have a thorough plan distributed to each family that relayed the same message across the board.

“The communication needs to be specific,” Board Member Bill Taulbee said. “Parents need to know this is the last day, this is the day work needs to be turned in and this is the day you can expect to see your grades in Parent Portal.”

Christy said he would meet with district administrators Friday to craft a finalized plan for the end of the year that would be distributed to students as soon as possible.

Board Chairperson Ashley Ritchie said, from a parent’s perspective, she supported the May 5 ending date.

“Parents are very overwhelmed right now,” she said. “We are still trying to finish packets from the week before because I’m trying to teach four kids in four different grades in my home. That’s what I’m hearing from parents right now. We’re panicking. It’s getting to the point that I think our parents are not buying into it anymore and our kids are tired. Let’s get in what we can get in and then let these kids (have a break). This has been hard, really hard, from a parent’s standpoint.”

Christy said students picked up their final packets this week and no more work would be assigned.

He explained that grading work has been delayed because when work is turned in to the schools it is sanitized and then placed in a closed container for 14 days to avoid transmitting the coronavirus via schoolwork.

Following the discussion of the school calendar, Bolen presented a proposal for a virtual graduation ceremony to the board.

“With what we’ve heard in the media and what is predicted from the governor, I don’t think (anything in person) would be realistic right now,” Bolen said.

Bolen said the rough plan would be to begin scheduling opportunities for seniors to come to the school in their cap and gowns and receive their diploma from an administrator. A very limited number of family members, likely four or less, would be able to accompany the students. A videographer and photographer will be on site to record each student receiving their diploma. Those clips would be compiled into one video that would also include the traditional graduation addresses from the valedictorian, salutatorian and more.

Once the video is complete, it will be aired online at a later date that has not been set.

The board gave Bolen the approval to begin seeking bids for the videography and editing services as well as from local photographers.

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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