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Superintendent's Letter to the Class of 2020

 

April 18, 2020

Class of 2020,

            As I write this letter to you, we are in the midst of an historic pandemic that has turned our lives, and the lives of people all around the world upside down.  So many have fallen ill…….so many have died.  Every medical facility, manufacturer, restaurant, school, family, hotel, airline, bank, retail store and other venues in our society have been struggling to combat this horrible COVID-19 virus while trying to hold onto as much “normal” as possible.  I am heartbroken that this terrible pandemic is hitting at a time when you would otherwise be enjoying the traditional experiences associated with your senior year of high school.

            I want you to know that while our staff has been consumed with our efforts to develop and implement instruction via distant learning, so that you can graduate on time and not have to extend instruction into the summer months, the Senior Class of 2020 has not been forgotten.  For weeks our staff has been exploring options for graduation, prom, senior awards, sports, musicals, student trips, etc.  We have been in consultation with other school districts, health authorities, state government officials, and legal representatives to understand the constantly changing restrictions put in place to help control the spread of the coronavirus so that we can make decisions regarding events, that are realistic, safe, and in compliance with expected health orders. 

Late this past week we learned about the federal government’s phased plan that will serve as a guide for states to begin the reopening process when appropriate in each area of our country.  Phase one has us avoiding groups of more than 10 people along with the now familiar practices of: social distancing, washing hands, sanitizing, covering our cough, etc.  In the future phase two will have us avoiding groups of more than 50 people.  Phase three will allow the return to large venues. 

Currently schools in Ohio are under order to remain closed through May 1st.  However, given the current health reports coming from the Ohio Department of Health, and consultation with health officials, we expect an announcement in the near future that we will not be authorized to return to our schools for the remainder of the year. 

While you may be seeing some school districts announcing that they are moving events like graduation and prom into June, July or August, many districts have waited to make such decisions until we could better understand the probability of extended social restrictions.  Moving an event only to have it cancelled or postponed again did not make sense.  Our goal was to have a plan in place by May 1st for how we will conduct alternative events for our senior students.  Once the federal phased plan was released late this week we felt it important to share with you, your parents, staff and community some of our thoughts regarding our ongoing planning for alternative events.  I sent a communication out to parents and staff last evening to share the status of some events, and some of the ideas regarding possible alternative events that are under consideration.

With what we know now about expected ongoing social restrictions, we believe at best when Ohio moves to phase two types of social restrictions, those restrictions will remain in place for the majority of the summer.  While we do not have a crystal ball giving us clear answers, it is reasonable to think, given current data trends, that there will be a 50 person gathering restriction for most of the summer months which restricts a lot of what we will be able to do with respect to graduation, prom and senior awards.  We must also be mindful of our senior students who are health compromised making them more susceptible to the virus.  And we need to be mindful of our senior students who will be leaving for the military or other obligations thus compelling us to hold the graduation on May 30th as planned.

Mr. Busenburg will be working with a committee of senior students, staff, and board to finalize plans for senior events.  We will have a graduation and senior awards ceremony and will make it as special and memorable as we possibly can while honoring any social restriction order in place at that time.   If there is any lessening of these restrictions, to allow for larger gatherings, such as an outdoor in-person graduation, we can and will adjust our plans.  But, I would be less than honest with you if I did not tell you we do not believe, at this time, a traditional in-person graduation in our gym or stadium will be possible.  That is not to say that there are not other creative ways to gather in vehicles to celebrate.  And we do not believe, at this time, a prom will be possible given social restrictions.  We have already received input and suggestions from a number of students and parents and these have been shared with Mr. Busenburg for consideration by the graduation committee.  Please do not hesitate to email additional suggestions to Mr. Busenburg (dbusenburg@jmk12.org) for consideration.

There are many creative solutions under consideration to honor our Class of 2020 even beyond graduation and senior awards.  Mr. Busenburg and the committee will be coming out soon (no later than May 1st) with details of plans to make the month of May a very special time for your class.  In the meantime please finish strong with your studies by completing on-line assignments and be safe as we work together to combat the COVID-19 virus.  As educators, we are in this business because we love and care about you as students and want you to have the best school experience we can possibly provide. 

Sincerely,

Dale L. Dickson,

Superintendent