Board of Education comments about virtual graduation

posted Apr 29, 2020, 1:40 PM by Anthony Sandstrom   [ updated Apr 29, 2020, 1:40 PM ]
At the Tuesday, April 28 Pueblo School District 60 Board of Education meeting, Board members publicly addressed the status of this year’s high school graduation in District 60.

Background

On April 9, by a 4-to-1 vote, the Board of Education approved the suspension of in-person instruction in District 60 schools for the remainder of the school year, which included all activities, events, and the upcoming high school graduation ceremony. To honor the Class of 2020 in the best way possible given the circumstances of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the Board and District 60 leadership agreed to begin planning for a virtual graduation.


The rationale behind the decision was to preserve the health and wellness of graduates, their families, and the community, while also following the social-distancing recommendations of local, state and national health officials. 


Since, some members of the community have voiced concerns about that decision in hopes that District 60 reconsider and have an in-person graduation. Tuesday, a consensus of Board members stood by their previous decision to opt for a virtual graduation.


What a ‘Virtual Graduation’ will look like

From Assistant Superintendent Suzanne Morey (Full description of the virtual graduation):

“The decision to hold a virtual graduation was to ensure the health and safety of all of our families, and believe me, (Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso) did not take that decision lightly. We also don’t want to run the risk of even one graduate not being able to attend if we delay an in-person graduation to some later undetermined date.”


Plans for the virtual ceremony include:

  • Five separate professionally-produced graduation videos for each school, keeping all the same elements of traditional graduations.

  • Students will be filmed walking on stage and receiving their diploma while wearing cap-and-gown. Students are scheduled to be filmed in groups of ten at a time, observing all social-distancing guidelines.

  • All speeches that would’ve taken place during a traditional graduation (valedictorian, salutatorian, student body president, etc.)

  • Recognitions of gold and silver cords, including academic excellence awards like the Four Pillars and the Lamp of Knowledge, and those that also are receiving Associate’s degrees alongside their diplomas.

  • School-specific musical performances, submitted by each school. 

  • WIll be premiered on the District 60 Vimeo page as well as Comcast Channel 18 at each school’s originally scheduled times:

    • Paragon/Dutch Clark: Thursday, May 28, 6 p.m.

    • Centennial High School: Friday, May 29, 3 p.m.

    • Central High School: Friday, May 29, 7 p.m.

    • South High School: Saturday, May 30, 8 a.m.

    • East High School: Saturday, May 30, noon

  • Graduation videos will be replayed on Comcast channel 18 throughout the summer, and will be permanently archived on the District 60 Vimeo page, where families will also have the option of viewing the entire video at any time. 


Board commentary on the decision

Tuesday’s comments by board members explained the rationale for their decision to suspend an in-person graduation ceremony this year. The following are a synopsis of their comments, alongside links to full comments.


Board President Taylor Voss (full comments):

My heart is absolutely broken, and I want our kids and our community to know how tough this decision was. I never thought we’d have to make a decision like this, and it absolutely kills me that we’re in this situation. I want our kids and community to know that their voices are being heard. I’ve read and responded to almost every email I’ve seen. I’ve taken phone calls and read the comments on social media, and I’m more than happy to talk to anyone on the phone … I spoke with (Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment Public Health Director) Randy Evetts … about the level of risk we’ll be facing throughout the summer … he said having an in-person graduation would be risky from a public health standpoint … The thing that keeps me up at night is, what if we change our minds and have an in-person graduation, and one of our kids catches the virus and God forbid, passes away? I couldn’t live with myself if I made a decision that caused that. We all understand that a virtual graduation is not ideal and is not what any of us want … So it is with a heavy heart that the direction of this Board is to proceed with a virtual graduation.”


Vice President Dr. Margaret Wright (full comments):

”I want to thank (District 60 staff) for their hard work, and I shared my desire to see (graduation) in person. I understand that may or may not happen, but I share that … I have no additional comments.”


Board member Judge Dennis Maes (full comments):

“Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented circumstances that are unique not only to Pueblo, but the entire world. Decisions have to be made that might invite controversy, but nevertheless have to be made. The fact that a decision might need to be made contrary to the beliefs of others does not mean they were not listened to, but that reasonable people can agree to disagree, and respect differing opinions … Nine people in Pueblo County have died of COVID-19 and at least 120 others have been diagnosed. While the vast majority are older adults, children have not been spared. The suggestion that a small number of fatalities (to children) justifies putting the entire population at risk, is insensitive and inconsiderate of those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 … It is my personal judgment that having an in-person graduation at this time places our students and their families in extreme danger, and perhaps death. It’s a situation that I will not and cannot validate. Therefore, I endorse a virtual graduation in lieu of postponing an in-person graduation to a later date.”


Board member Tommy Farrell (full comments):

“When we made the decision to suspend in-person instruction, events and graduation, I used the term ‘a heavy heart,’ and I feel like it might even be a broken heart. I know that I can’t feel what our seniors feel right now, but I have read every email, Facebook comments and posts, taken phone calls, and I know that this is impacting people - and I know that this virus is impacting people. I don’t think it’s fair to assume that this decision was made rashly or quickly or without consideration, because I’ve put a lot of consideration into it. I’m still running the gamut of emotions for this situation … So many generations have had challenges, and this is definitely a challenge to our seniors right now … I know there’s an effort to make a virtual graduation as meaningful as it can be. It’s not the same as an in-person graduation, but being healthy and keeping everyone safe should be our number one priority.”


Board member Barb Clementi (full comments):

“None of us wanted this situation, and I have to acknowledge that this is unfair. But it’s the way it is, and there’s not much any of us can do about it. But it’s just as unfair to the (Denver Public Schools) student that lost her life to this virus, and we don’t want to see that happen to any of our kids or their families because the District made a decision based on pressure. None of our decisions are made rashly or as a reaction. They are all very well considered, deeply thought out and very intentional as was (the decision on graduation) … We have one of the best videography departments in the state, and I’m excited for what they’re putting together for this graduation. This is not a ‘fly-by-night’ deal … We’re all disappointed that this is the way things have to be, but I agree we have to make the best of what we got. One death from our decision is one too many, and that’s why I support, with a heavy heart, the decision we previously made.”


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