Graduation dates for most area school districts will likely change because of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.
Fort Osage has tentatively rescheduled graduation and prom for later in May, while the Independence School District will determine a new graduation date once the stay-at-home order is lifted. Grain Valley, too, is looking at possible new dates for its graduation.
Blue Springs School District spokesperson Katie Woolf said the original graduation date for Blue Springs and Blue Springs South high schools – scheduled for May 24 at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City – is still on as scheduled as of now.
Scott Moore, principal at Fort Osage High School, said new dates have been selected, but the district isn’t releasing them yet while the length of the stay-at-home orders remains uncertain.
“There's an expectation that the quarantine time is going to extend beyond thatm so we're not opposed to something in July if we have to, or June if we need to, but it's still very important to me that we provide those opportunities for our seniors,” Moore said. “And based on the feedback that I've gotten, those are things they're really passionate about.”
Independence Superintendent Dale Herl said graduation dates for William Chrisman, Van Horn and Truman high schools won’t be set until at least April 24, the tentative final day of the stay-at-home order for Jackson County. The original date of graduation for all three was May 23 at the Community of Christ Auditorium in Independence.
“At this time it’s too early to set a different graduation date,” Herl said. “We won’t announce anything till at least the end of the stay-home order. … There are far too many unknowns right now to know for sure when we can have graduation.”
Grain Valley School District Superintendent Marc Snow said the district was making contingency plans for a postponed graduation. Grain Valley’s graduation is scheduled for May 19 at the Community of Christ Auditorium.
Snow said the district, which is exploring alternate sites if the auditorium isn’t available, hasn’t set an alternative date yet.
“We will have some form of ceremony,” Snow said. “We just don’t know whether it’s going to be at a scheduled time in May or at a later point.”
Moore is trying to reschedule Fort Osage’s graduation and prom for their original venues. The prom was set for Arrowhead Stadium, and Moore said rescheduling that so far hasn’t been a problem. But keeping graduation at the Community of Christ Auditorium is more problematic. The Auditorium hosts numerous graduations, and all of them are pushing their dates back too.
“I'm not opposed to having graduation in our stadium if we have to or a different event space,” Moore said. “It's just important I think to have that opportunity to celebrate our kids.”
Herl said the Independence high schools would have graduation ceremonies, with no plans for a virtual or online ceremony.
Fort Osage’s Local Scholarship Night, a ceremony honoring seniors who receive scholarships from local businesses and alumni, will also be held sometime in late May, Moore said.
Moore said Fort Osage has assessed the entire senior class to make sure no students fall through the cracks because of the shutdown. He said teachers have been working with students at risk for not graduating, have internet connectivity issues or need special accommodations.
“I don't want any seniors to slip through the cracks, nor do I want this to be a barrier for any of our kids that would prevent them from graduating,” Moore said.
Fort Osage and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are modifying requirements for the Class of 2020, Moore said. A required end-of-course test for Algebra I, for example, won’t be needed for students who haven’t taken it.
“We're going to make every accommodation possible to help our seniors through what's already a pretty challenging time,” Moore said. “I just don't want to add anymore stress on our families than what's already there.”
Herl said most Independence School District students appear to be keeping on track to graduate despite finishing their final semesters online.
Independence started its online platform Monday after giving students through last Friday to catch up on all lessons prior to March 13.
“We had two weeks of lessons uploaded to the website and their two weeks to finish it was done at the end of (last) week,” Herl said. “Now they’ll start the new online platform (Monday).
“From what I understand, everyone is getting through it. But everyone I’ve heard from, the kids wish they were back in school.”
Snow said Grain Valley’s prom, scheduled for April 30 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Independence, hasn’t been canceled yet but expects that it will be. If it is scratched, it won’t be rescheduled.
Grain Valley is still working out senior graduation requirements, Snow said. The district is still evaluating its online learning to see how students are faring. He said it’s likely grades will be cut off at a certain point, either from the previous semester or the last time students were in class.
“Grades will be given, credits will be awarded and students will graduate,” Snow said. “One way or the other we’ll make sure it happens.”
The proms for the ISD high schools – April 25 for Van Horn and May 2 for Truman and Chrisman – have not yet been postponed but ISD spokesperson Jana Corrie said the dates and venues may have to be changed at a later date.
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