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Superintendent addresses parent questions

A Facebook Live webcast with Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III received more than 2,700 views as he addressed issues related to student learning, graduation, special education and more over the course of more than 30 minutes.

Gordon addressed specific questions that were sent in advance, and some that came in via the school division’s Facebook page during the webcast.

He answered more than 20 questions, with questions about graduation among the most frequently asked.

Gordon said the division is working on some form of a virtual graduation in June, since state guidelines do not currently allow for gatherings of more than 10 people. Diplomas going out will say June 2020 rather than the June 6 date originally planned.

He said that even when the governor’s stay-at-home order expires June 10, it won’t mean being able to go back to large group events. Director of Secondary Leadership Dr. Ronald Leigh and the division’s three high school principals, along with Gordon, have been working with local vendors to determine how a virtual graduation would look. He expects to release more details about virtual graduation sometime in May.

He said the division is also looking at possible refunds for things like senior dues and other things that have already been paid for, though he said how much will be refunded has yet to be determined. Gordon also said that any senior who had not gotten their required 50 volunteer hours will have that waived.

Addressing the learning packets for elementary students, Gordon said those packets are grade-level based, with the goal of developing mastery of material. For those who haven’t been able to get them, he said they had sent them out on buses and have had them available at their child’s school, and they are also online for download. He said they would schedule another set of dates in May to allow people to pick up any personal items or medicines.

The elementary school work packets, he said, would not have to be turned in. Gordon also reiterated that much of the secondary-level learning would move to the Edgenuity platform for core classes such as English, math, science, social studies and world languages, and it would use Google Classroom for other classes such as fine and performing arts, career and technical education, and health and physical education. The School Board is expected to vote on a virtual nine week grading plan to include a pass/fail option, which would provide an “A” for students who pass their classes.

Addressing concerns about children in special education getting further behind, Gordon said that just because students aren’t in school doesn’t mean learning stops. He said case managers and teachers have set up office hours in the morning for those who have individualized education plans.

Gordon noted that there is no deadline or timeline for special education students to complete work, as he said they can work at their own pace.

“The expectation is not to replicate what’s happening in school,” Gordon said. “The expectation is to try to make sure that we have some continuity of learning so that we can eliminate some of the summer slide that we may see, or the fact that our kids haven’t been in school since March 13.”

Gordon said the division is revising pacing guides and curriculum maps to reinforce learning and allow for mastery of material for elementary students during the first month of school. For secondary students, he said there would be more new material, but there would also be “instructional crosswalks” for all of September to help remediate them.

Yearbooks, he said, will more than likely be mailed to people’s homes, but that has not been determined. He said the division is working with vendors on sending school photos that have already been paid for to people’s homes.

Gordon noted that at Thursday’s board meeting, the division’s learning plan for the rest of the school year would be addressed.

He expects to send out another letter Friday that addresses issues brought up during Wednesday’s Facebook Live question-and-answer session as well as highlight issues in its frequently asked questions section on the division’s emergency information page.