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  • Superintendent Message

    April 17, 2020

    Dear Students, Parents, Staff and Community,

                   I pray that this letter finds you and your family safe, healthy, and positively navigating through these most difficult and challenging of times. As we entered the 2019-20 school year, nobody could have envisioned that we would be experiencing such a widespread pandemic as we are currently experiencing with the COVID-19 virus.  So many people are ill, and so many are dying from this horrible viral enemy.   On behalf of the school district staff, administration, and board, please know that our hearts and prayers go out to all those who have been impacted physically, financially, and mentally during this unprecedented time.  The stresses associated with staying at home, working on the front lines, providing for our families, keeping up with the latest information on the virus, or just coping with the fact that we cannot give a hug to some of our family and friends can make us feel uneasy and impatient.  Please know that we must keep our eyes focused on the winner’s tape at the end of the race and positively jump each hurdle along the way.  We will make it through this time together and be better people for having lived through the experience.

                  I know that many of you have been anxiously awaiting word as to how we will finish this school year and prepare for the 2020-21 school year.  There are many issues related to instructional programming, events, and operations that have been challenging to address with the unknown parameters that will be in place:  1. Beyond our current on-site campus closure (ordered through May 1, 2020); 2. During the summer; and 3.  During the time when we return to campus classes, hopefully by August.  While we have yet to receive official notice from the State of Ohio that school campuses will be closed through the end of the school year, indications from health authorities, federal guidelines released yesterday, and suggestions from our Governor’s press conferences, lead us to believe that we will not be returning to our campuses this school year.  This status could change; however, we will move forward with plans as if we were not returning to school this year.

    Distance Learning

                  I again wish to thank teachers, administrators, students and parents as we work together to create viable distant learning opportunities for our students that allow us to continue to count our instructional days and avoid having to “make-up” days into the summer months.  You are all working exceptionally hard to make this system work and your positive efforts are very much appreciated. 

                  Students are encouraged to take very seriously their assigned distance learning assignments and work closely with their teachers through the end of the school year.

     Senior Class of 2020

                  Perhaps the most gut wrenching aspect of this disruption to “normal” school culture is the impact on our students who make up the Senior Class of 2020.  I want to validate the feeling of “unfairness” that each of you undoubtedly must be feeling with respect to the disruptions brought about by this terrible COVID-19 virus.  Please know that your school, parents and community will work together to provide a most memorable recognition and honor for your class through the end of the school year.

    Graduation

                  Given senior student military and work commitments, we believe it is important to continue our plans to graduate these students on time in May by holding our ceremony as planned on May 30, 2020.

                  Mr. Busenburg is forming a committee consisting of the senior class advisor, a few teachers, the senior class officers, and a school board member to make sure that we are doing everything possible to properly honor and celebrate our well-deserving graduates with the goal being to keep our graduation on May 30, 2020.  This celebration will most assuredly look different than it has in the past, as we believe we will still need to respect the social distancing and “limited numbers allowed to gather” orders for the safety of all participating.    Mr. Busenburg is working to balance the following considerations in the creation of a memorable graduation ceremony:

     1.     Is it fair to ALL of our students? How do we not exclude our students with compromised immune systems or students who are uncomfortable with taking unnecessary risks?

    2.       How do we not jeopardize the health and safety of our students, staff, or community?

    3.       How do we properly honor our seniors and their accomplishments given the fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic?

     

    One idea under consideration is for us to host a “Virtual” Graduation on Saturday, May 30th.  Jostens has a virtual commencement ceremony that they are offering to our school district free of charge and includes the following:

    ·       A livestream hosting option for up to 1000 participants

    • Exclusive digital content for primary ceremony elements, including Pomp & Circumstance, video commencement speeches, an animated “tassel turn”, and a ‘virtual cap toss’
    • Safe, celebratory ways to distribute diplomas and capture pictures
    • Student slide, invitation, and email templates

    This would allow us to properly celebrate our students, and it could be tailored to fit our specific needs.  This could include the virtual ceremony followed by some sort of caravan where students could drive to the school in their cap and gown, be given their diploma, and take a picture (maybe on a stage that we have set up outside).  Jostens has been an outstanding partner in the past, and we believe that they have the experience and resources to help us through this process.

    Other ideas will be under consideration, and your input is welcome moving forward, but I wanted to provide you with an example of what the committee will be taking under consideration.  The senior class and community will be receiving more information in the coming weeks from the High School regarding graduation.

    Senior Awards Ceremony

    Our senior awards ceremony is scheduled for Monday, May 18th.  Mr. Busenburg has been discussing this event with Guidance Counselor, Debbie Merrill at length, and if schools are closed for the remainder of the year, they are working to livestream the ceremony on Facebook and perhaps another electronic platform.  Typically, seniors who are receiving an award or scholarship are invited to this event.  To do this virtually, we would invite everyone receiving an award to view the event online, Mr. Busenburg would read all of the awards and scholarships as he usually does, and then mail any plaques/certificates/awards to the student homes.

    Other Spring Events

    Prom

                  Prom was scheduled for Saturday, May 9th.  One of the most difficult decisions we have to make is to cancel the prom for this year.  We do not take this decision lightly.  We are aware of a few other school districts that have set rescheduled dates for their prom in hopes that the restrictions would be lifted in the summer.  The guidelines that are in place and expected to continue well into the summer months give no indication that we would be able to successfully reschedule a prom that is safe. It is quite impractical to think that we could have a prom while respecting the social distancing and “numbers allowed to gather” guidelines that are in place and expected to be in place through the summer months to protect us from the COVID-19 virus.  It is expected that any venue that would be considered for a rescheduled prom, would also have restrictions preventing them from hosting the numbers of students we see at our proms.  Rather than create false hope and unattainable expectations, we are choosing to cancel this year’s prom.  This is a highly contagious virus that we must defeat.   And we must choose to err on the side of safety for our students and community. 

    Spring Musical “Adams Family”

                  Our students have worked so very hard to prepare this year’s Spring Musical “Adams Family.”  Director Brianna Warner, students and Boosters are to be commended for their incredible work in preparing this year’s show.  Brianna has worked to secure an extension of the license to allow the performance to be rescheduled later than the original March dates.  The first option was to perform the musical in May should we return to school May 4th.  The second option was to postpone the show until summer.  And the third option was to stream the show live to a virtual audience in the summer.  The first two options at this point do not seem likely given expected guidelines going forward.  And the streaming of the live performance will depend upon how many students are able to gather to actually perform the show.  We will monitor the safety guidelines and state orders in the coming weeks to determine if a live streaming of the “Adams Family” will be possible during the summer months. 

    Spring Sports Season

                  The Ohio High School Athletic Association has determined that if the school campus closures continue through the end of the year, all spring sports contests and tournaments will be cancelled.  The spring athletes have worked hard to prepare for a successful season and their hard work is greatly appreciated.  Would we have liked to watch them play?  Yes.  This is yet another sacrifice our students are making in this historic war against the COVID-19 virus. 

    New York City Senior Trip Refunds

                  The senior trip to New York City was cancelled earlier and Tammy Ortman has been working diligently since that time to secure the maximum amount of refunds to parents for this trip that the travel company can negotiate.  Ms. Ortman is staying in contact with parents regarding the timing of refunds from the travel company. 

     Eighth Grade Trip to Washington, D.C.

                  The eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. has been cancelled and Principal Kris Almendinger continues to work with the travel company to secure the maximum amount of refunds to parents and to the Washington, D.C. fund for future trips.  Mrs. Almendinger will continue to stay in touch with parents regarding refunds in the coming weeks.

     Fifth Grade Spring Camp

                  The fifth grade spring camp has been cancelled.  Refunds to parents will be processed as soon as possible and parents do not have to fill out any form or contact the office to receive said refunds.

     

    Other Important Information

    Kindergarten Registration

                  Due to the COVID-19 virus, the mandated school closure and the restrictions on gatherings caused by the pandemic, Kindergarten Screening will be postponed.  Options to reschedule during the summer are being explored as more information becomes available. 

                  It is imperative that the online registration process is completed for all incoming kindergarten students as soon as possible.  Having this information will allow us to plan for next school year and gain contact information so that we keep families informed on the rescheduled date for screening.  If you have a kindergartner or have friends and families with upcoming kindergarten students, we appreciate your help in spreading the word about registering online.  The link to register, and more information about Kindergarten Registration can be found under the Latest News Section on both the district and JES website.

     

    HB 197 Legislation Addressing COVID-19

    The General Assembly passed House Bill (HB) 197 in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Gov. The bill makes the following education-related changes:


    • Eliminates state and federal testing for the 2019-2020 school year;


    • Prohibits the issuance of state report cards for the 2019-2020 school year and provides a one-year safe harbor from sanctions related to the report card;


    • Freezes EdChoice eligibility at the 2019-2020 list of 517 buildings;


    • Permits students and their school-aged siblings who attended or would have attended a building on the 2019-2020 eligibility list to receive a voucher;


    • Waives the third-grade reading guarantee retention requirement;


    • Permits schools to grant high school diplomas to students on track to graduate and for whom the principal determines that the student has successfully completed the curriculum;


    • Permits schools not to conduct evaluations of district employees, including teachers, administrators or superintendents, for the 2019-2020 school year if determined impractical or impossible;


    • Prohibits the use of 2019-2020 value-added data for the purpose of teacher evaluations;
    • Permits certain state-licensed individuals to provide services electronically or via telehealth communication to students with special needs;


    • Delays all licensure deadlines so that expiring licenses must be renewed no later than 90 days after the emergency period ends or Dec. 1, 2020, whichever is sooner;


    • Sets April 28 as the final day of voting for the March 17 primary election and prohibits in-person voting for that election;


    • Authorizes the tax commissioner to extend school district income tax filing and payment deadlines for the duration of
    the COVID-19 emergency declaration;


    • Permits boards of education to use electronic communication for in-person meetings and hearings during the emergency period but not later than Dec. 1, 2020;


    • Permits the state director of agriculture to exempt school districts from registering as a food processing establishment overseen by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and from paying registration fees;


    • permits the issuance of one-year, nonrenewable, provisional educator licenses provided certain conditions are met;


    • permits schools to make up through distance learning any number of days or hours necessary to meet minimum instructional hour requirements.

     

    In Conclusion

                  We will do our best to keep you informed going forward on any changes or developments as we strive to successfully complete this school year and plan for next.  Students, we miss you!!!  Keep up your studies and completion of your assignments, as we need you to finish this school year strong.  Staff, thank you for your dedicated and creative work in providing quality distance learning instruction to our students.  Parents, thank you for your patience as we together work through these difficult times. 

     

    Sincerely,

    Dale L. Dickson

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