Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Szymaniak said that, despite Gov. Charlie Baker’s announcement last week that schools would not reopen this year, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has indicated that parents should not expect major changes to the home-learning plan.
There are 37 more school days’ of remote learning left on the school calendar.
He updated the School Committee at its Wednesday, April 22 meeting.
Summer learning and special education program plans have not been firmed up as yet, according to Szymaniak. Conley Camp and some other recreation-based programs have been halted for now with the ending of the school year.
“We don’t really know what it’s going to look like in the fall,” he said.
Graduation and end-of-the year events have been a big topic of discussion among superintendents.
“We have not canceled graduation,” Szymaniak said. “It’s not going to happen on the traditional graduation day at this point, but we’re looking at dates in July and August — the later, the better.”
He said he has receive emails from about a dozen people outlining various ideas for graduation ceremony alternatives and they have been forwarded to the seniors for feedback.
“The students really [have] appreciated what the teachers, what the administrators, what the community has done for them during this time,” Szymaniak said was the most important message coming out of the Superintendents’ Council’s conference call. “We’re still trying to be optimistic, although cautiously, of what we can do.”
One option is a drive-by parade so seniors can say goodbye and thank-you to teachers.
A plan has also not yet been devised by which students can retrieve belongings from school desks and lockers.
South Shore Tech’s Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey said Saturday, April 25 that, while nothing has been decided yet, school officials have been communicating with seniors and that the Class of 2020 seems to prefer doing “something face-to-face when it is appropriate.”
“If they had to choose between something virtual in June and something face-to-face in the fall, they’d prefer to actually walk across a stage somewhere in some fashion,” Hickey said, indicating that could even mean waiting as long as Thanksgiving when college students would be home from break.
Some colleges and universities are also discussing keeping students off campuses until January 2021.
The traditional congratulatory lawn signs, a project of the Parents’ Association, and Class of 2020 T-shirt distribution will go on as scheduled.
“We need to mark the occasion of what would have been the graduation with something,” Hickey said. The end of the school year paperwork will also go on as usual.
“For the most part its just an ongoing experiment,” he said of the remote learning situation.
W-H School Committee members stressed that the communities have to do something to celebrate thee Class of 2020.
“What about a parade?” said Committee member Fred Small. “Maybe the towns do something as well as the school district to acknowledge what these kids are actually missing.”
Szymaniak also suggested a recognition ceremony for W-H graduates who have earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from colleges and universities that have also canceled graduation ceremonies this spring in a local ceremony following the high school graduation when it happens.
“Once a Panther, always a Panther,” Szymaniak said. “The challenge for that is, we don’t have a timeline because of this virus.”
Small and member Dawn Byers lauded the idea of a local ceremony for college and university graduates.
Byers also raised questions middle school parents had asked about learning expectations and grading. Szymaniak said it is a challenge, but parents can reach out to school administrators for help in keeping students engaged.
He has also asked public safety personnel to do wellness checks on families that have not been connecting to the schools, to make sure there is no need for other services such as food for the family.
DESE is surveying school administrators about what technology needs they are facing, as well as expected federal stimulus funds for school cleaning and technology.