Unit 40 Board Decides to Proceed w/Graduation Ceremony; Much Discussion Over Start of School Year


Published on July 9 2020 7:52 pm
Last Updated on July 10 2020 6:01 am
Written by Greg Sapp

EHS 2020

Effingham Unit 40 school board members Thursday decided to go ahead with a high school graduation ceremony, even though many members of the Class of 2020 have indicated they will not be participating.

The ceremony will take place at 5pm on Sunday, July 19, but will take place at the high school football stadium to better address social distancing concerns. EHS Principal Kurt Roberts said 49 class members have said they plan to attend. Thursday was the deadline to respond, but Roberts said there might be a little wiggle room if a student changes their mind soon.

The nature of the ceremony is still to be finalized, but it will involve the student's name being announced, and the opportunity for them to come forward to receive their diploma.

Roberts said recordings have been made of the valedictory and class president speeches, and announcement of the honors achieved by the class members. He said those would be made available to the class members following the graduation ceremony.

As to why more students don't want to participate, Roberts said he's heard, "we're done; it's not meaningful for us anymore." He said many have moved on and are getting ready for college. Others have already left for the military.

Also Thursday, there was much discussion of tentative plans for the coming school year. The consensus was to offer remote learning at the family's choice, with the understanding that not necessarily everything offered in the classroom would be available by remote learning. It was also agreed that those who choose remote learning will not be able to participate in extra-curricular activities. The thinking is that if a student can't participate in learning activities, they shouldn't have the opportunity to take part in the extra-curriculars. Board member Brad Waldhoff suggested that such decisions might lead those on the fence to choose in-class instruction.

Much was reviewed as far as class and school building schedules, lunchtimes, busing and how extra cleaning will be accomplished.

Masks were also discussed, since the State indicates kids have to wear them if they want to go to school. Superintendent Mark Doan said he is realistic enough that there will be occasions when a student gets sent home because they won't wear a mask. Doan agreed with earlier discussions that such an action is a health issue, not a discipline issue.

Friday, July 24 will be the deadline for parents to indicate whether their children will attend in-class or remote learning opportunities. 

Doan said District officials will be meeting soon with Effingham County Health Department officials on how COVID-19 cases will be addressed, and said members of the school district unions will meet with administrators next week to deal with potential changes in their building that could occur in efforts to address COVID-19.

Board President Angie Byers noted the local increase in COVID-19 cases, and asked what if the District has to switch to all remote learning; is the District ready for such an event? The indication from administrators is that it could be done.

The Board approved the purchase of personal protective equipment. Assistant Superintendent Jason Fox indicated he has talked on a regular basis with vendors who can supply needed items.

Board members also approved a five-year lease of cameras from the National Federation of High Schools. The cameras could be mounted for the televising of school district events.

In personnel moves, the Unit 40 board employed Aaron McDaniels as a second grade teacher at South Side, Jennie Metcalf as a fifth grade teacher at Central Grade School, Janielle Schuette as an elementary teacher at the Early Learning Center, and Jarred Simmons as a a groundskeeper and maintenance staffer. Leaves were approved for Kara Huston and Jackie Mette, and a transfer was approved for Gwen Kuhns to a seven-hour cook at the high school. Resignations were accepted from three teachers, Tina Shipman, Nicole McClellan and Renee Kihne.