“We're gonna be great when we get back.”
That certainly won't be any time before June for the Woodward-Granger school district after the state-wide school closure as part of Iowa's coronavirus pandemic response. But that is superintendent Dr. Matt Adams' view of the district's ability to come back for the 2020-21 school year.
In the meantime, there's still a load of material and events that were scheduled for the next month and half of school activities. Without schools open to host graduation, field trips and day-to-day education, there are new steps that are being taken to adapt to the situation.
At the top of the school board's agenda during a Zoom meeting on Thursday, April 23, the board outlined improvised guidelines for how classes and activities will move forward.
While pre-K through junior year students have another year to come back to Woodward-Granger classes, the senior class of 2020 is at a loss. The scheduled May 17 graduation is canceled and after surveying the class' parents, principal Robert Boley found over 70 percent would rather delay the ceremony until July 19 as opposed to running a virtual event in May.
Caps and gowns have already been supplied to the school, ready for distribution. Boley said the high school is looking for alternatives of how to keep that May 17 date semi-ceremonious, primarily considering how to pass the school's traditional graduation flower. That won't act as a replacement for gradation. Boley said that will be a means to at least still honor the date seniors were supposed to end their last high school chapter.
Not only are seniors in limbo, awaiting graduation, but their prom is also in question considering the event was booked at an outside venue. Boley voiced concerns that a move to the summer may not be possible at the planned location due to weddings and other events booking the same space. To that rate, the senior trip is also in a “holding pattern.”
The more school-oriented part of the agenda is more ironed out, however. As part of the Voluntary Educational Enrichment Opportunities, students will receive pass/incomplete grades as opposed to letter grades. Boley said this is to help ease the stress of students and teachers.
Reiterating the purpose of the VEEO in a memo on April 24, Adams wrote that “as a reminder, student participation is not required, but is highly encouraged.” These opportunities will be available for the next four weeks.
Should students have received a grade of a 'D-' or higher, they will receive a passing mark for that class. Students that had a failing grade before classes were suspended in March are afforded the chance to build that grade to passing status, rather than issue a failing mark, just as they would be granted with resources in school.
Boley also iterated that these pass/incomplete marks will not have any bearing on GPA or college admissions. Though, Adams chimed in with the advice that this time off is a “great time for students to prep for the ACT on their own.”
This also trickles down to the middle school. Principal Jake Mohling also clarified that students will not receive letter grades for the missed school days.
“Not fair for the kids or the teachers,” Mohling said. “We offer retakes. We offer missing homework to be done. To put pressure on the kid or teacher is unfair.”
All extracurricular activities are also paused until further notice. Though as activities director Matt Eichhorn brought up, there's hope that baseball and softball seasons can be saved. There is no firm idea of those possibilities before the state announces a decision by June 1, but he added there is a tentative schedule outlined.
Similarly, elementary principal Matt Brummond said he hopes that once “we get the guidelines to open socially, we're talking about a back-to-school barbecue.”
As the district has throughout this prolonged cancellation since mid-March, all hourly employees will be taken care of. Non-salaried district workers will be paid through the remainder of the school year for their “mission-critical” work, Adams wrote.
“I hope this gesture from the board sends a strong message to all our hourly employees that you are valued and appreciated,” Adams continued. “The board has been unwavering in their support of all our employees during this closure and I truly appreciate it.”