The Everett Public Schools (EPS) will likely plan a drive-in graduation ceremony in the coming months, with the promise of a real in-person graduation at a later date when such gatherings are deemed safe in Massachusetts.
Supt. Priya Tahiliani told the School Committee at their Monday online Zoom meeting that they are considering doing both a drive-in and real graduation for students in the Class of 2020. She said they are moving all awards ceremonies and athletic banquets to a virtual, online format, but not so with graduation.
“For graduation, we’re going a slightly different route where we want to make sure they are doing something where the students can get together and be together even while social distancing,” she said. “So we’re exploring several different options, including a drive-thru or drive-in graduation. It will seem to be like a drive-in movie theatre. That seems to be the one most popular at this point.”
The idea would be to have cars come to a large parking lot at a location in Everett. People would park at a specified distance and there would be large screens for all to see and speakers set up so all could hear. That would permit a graduation with guest speakers and some traditional activities at a distance.
The drive-in graduation, however, is just something to mark the time, she said. A real graduation and prom has been promised at some point.
“One thing I will say is whatever we do for graduation is simply a placeholder because we are committed to have a real ceremony when we can do that,” she said. “We think it’s really important to recognize this time for them now because we will have several students who will leave and may not come back for a postponed graduation ceremony. That’s why we’ll do both. We’ll do this one now and we will, once safe, commit to making sure they have a real graduation and prom.”
There is no date yet for the drive-in graduation, but dates will be shared as the time gets closer. Online celebrations and banquets will be announced soon.
• Online Learning
The EPS has rolled out a remote learning plan for students in all grades, which started this week. There are new expectations for grading at all levels, and for some structure to the day. Each school has come up with a plan that accommodates learning.
Already, last week, the schools delivered 500 ChromeBooks to homes, and plan to deliver at least 425 more this week to make sure students have devices to access remote learning during the school year, as well as a robust summer learning program that is being planned.
School Committee members were concerned that some students may not have internet access, and Supt. Tahiliani said that is a concern.
“We do have several students we found without internet and that will probably be a request we put in at the next meeting,” she said. “All students get two months free. However, even that can be a process to get.”
She said they are compiling numbers of students affected, and have worked out a program with an internet provider to offer low-cost service for some students without a connection. The administration will be presenting a potential plan at the next School Committee meeting.
“We do think with the opportunities that would be coming up in the summer, it would be a good investment to make so our students have access now and though the end of the summer,” she said.
When it comes to calculating grades for upcoming valedictorians and salutatorians, Tahiliani said they have decided to only use the first three quarters of this school term in calculating the grade point averages in the future. She said they would likely also move to maybe recognizing more students at the salutatorian level – perhaps a Top 5 in the class. Without the full four years to calculate, it makes things difficult in declaring a clear-cut winner.
• Getting Stuff
Supt. Tahiliani said they are now beginning to work with students and parents about getting access to the buildings to retrieve belongings. Many students left school on March 12 not knowing they would never return to the buildings. So, students left behind classwork, supplies and personal items that have remained there since.
Students and parents are encouraged to begin making appointments with school staff to get a time to access the building to get belongings.
• School Enrollment
The school registration process began as usual on May 1, with parents able to pre-register their students for next school term. The forms and documents are available on the school website and the parent information center has begun processing things received online. Supt. Tahiliani encouraged parents registering children to gov forward with the process.
• Delegates Chosen
The delegates to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) were chosen by the Committee as voting members at the convention for the Everett School Committee.
Member Frank Parker was chosen as the delegate and Member Marcony Almeida-Barros was chosen as the alternate. Both were chosen in a unanimous vote.