Stanly County Schools announces graduation plans, approves interim superintendent

Published 9:26 am Thursday, May 28, 2020

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Topics discussed by the Stanly County School Board at a specially-called meeting Wednesday included confirming the new interim superintendent along with presentations regarding graduation and curriculum updates regarding the COVID-19 situation.

Interim Super Named

With a motion made by board member Anthony Graves, seconded by Jeff Chance, the Board unanimously approved Vicki Calvert as the new interim superintendent.

Calvert has accepted the offer from Stanly County Schools (SCS) to serve as interim superintendent starting July 1 with a salary of $130,000. The contract runs through December.

Drive-Through Graduation

The board also received information on commencement exercises from Dr. Alisha Ellis, director of secondary education and AIG for SCS.

Ellis said schools have distributed yard signs for families of graduates along with celebrating students when they picked up their cap and gowns.

Two different surveys were conducted to see people’s feelings about a traditional versus non-traditional ceremony. The second of those surveys found a ratio of approximately 60 to 40 percent, she said, of families and grads wanting a live ceremony as opposed to a virtual or socially distant event.

Senior advisors still wanted to honor grads on June 12 so SCS has decided to allow the schools to conduct drive-through graduations.

According to a post on the SCS website, each high school will pick a time for their respective drive-through ceremonies at each school. Grads will arrive no sooner than 20 minutes prior to the start and will be allowed two cars with family and friends inside. Only personal vehicles will be allowed; limos, RVs, buses, cars with trailers, commercial vehicles, 15-passenger vans or the like will be prohibited.

Graduates will drive up to a designated spot and the graduate alone will be allowed to exit the vehicle. After being presented their diploma from the principal, pictures will be taken, then the graduate will re-enter their vehicle and leave the school campus.

Grads will wear their caps and gowns for the event, and awnings or tents will be provided if there is inclement weather.

A video honoring the senior classes will also be posted on each school’s website or on a social media platform.

Should any bans on group gatherings be lifted by Aug. 1, a traditional ceremony will be planned for each school at the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center.

Ellis said liability concerns were expressed by principals when the idea of a parade came up for graduation.

Oakboro has planned a separate event to the drive-through graduation: a parade of graduates from across Stanly June 6 at 10 a.m., with the police department and volunteer fire department taking the liability, according to Ellis..

Plans will be made to live stream the Aug. 1 ceremony if the event takes place.

Chairman Melvin Poole said he believes there may be a drop off in terms of students coming back for the August ceremony after the June 12 drive-through event.

Board member Glenda Gibson asked if the Agri-Civic Center would be able to accommodate all the ceremonies, to which Ellis said the four traditional high schools will probably have reduced numbers which should allow the ceremonies to be conducted on Aug. 1.

“We heard those pleas (for a traditional ceremony), but we still wanted to honor their request,” Ellis said.

Curriculum Concerns

Superintendent Dr. Jeff James talked about a conference call with the state in terms of the plans moving forward, including a concern with average daily membership (ADM) measurements.

James said it was suggested ADM would be taken on the 40th day rather than 20th day as before, to which he said ADM should be waived completely for next year.

He cited a USA Today article stating estimates of students not returning to schools in the fall could be between 25 and 30 percent, noting funding comes from ADMs.

A reduction of such “is a grave concern,” James said.

Transportation costs are a concern, the superintendent added, saying if social distancing in buses happens it will raise the costs “exponentially.”

“You can not social distance and run two bus routes without doubling the expense of busing,” James said, adding one projection for the state’s overall budget could show a shortage as large as $4 billion to $5 billion in lost revenue.

With around 40 percent of the budget going to education, the shortage for schools in North Carolina could be around $1.5 billion.

“That would be astronomical,” James said.

Graves commented on the possible shortage.

“They can’t bankrupt the school systems,” Graves said. “They can’t fire all the teachers. They can get a damn loan like every other state.”

He added counties need to pass resolutions to send to the General Assembly about the ADM waiver. James later noted home-school students who take two classes with SCS can be counted in the ADM numbers.

Additional money, James said, can also be used to create more WiFi hot spots to allow students to use their Chromebooks to do remote learning. SCS may partner with churches for access, he added, along with possibly using buses and solar-power devices to create additional hot spots.

James said the state has about $4 billion in a rainy day fund which he said can be used to offset costs in a time he called “a torrential flood.”

Learning next year will likely be a hybrid between remote distance learning and in-person work, according to Lynn Plummer, director of curriculum and MTSS support.

Plummer said staff has worked on basic plans to be ready for remote learning when the state sends out guidelines for next year.

“Honestly, hybrid is probably the way that we will need to go in order to offer some students online things who don’t have access, a mirror version of (lessons) on paper,” Plummer said.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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