It is with tremendous difficulty I share this.
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis and the many unknowns we face, I'm directing our instructional staff to finish the 2019-20 school year by continuing to provide digital learning opportunities to students in grades K-12 through mid-day, Friday, May 22, 2020.
I arrived at this decision for the following reasons;
Though I'm hopeful we'll transition out of our Stay At Home directive sometime in early May, the easing of this restriction will require continued social distancing, wearing face masks in public, significant limitations to the size of gatherings, and the likelihood we could even be required to take everyone's temperature at the front door before allowing them to begin each school day. It is my opinion such stipulations will make it impossible for us to operate our schools as they are designed.
Another consideration I've weighed is, with our greatest hope being we'll get to open our buildings for normal operations this coming August, we face many challenges related to completing our Washington Elementary new school construction project and advancing our Cañon City Middle School new addition and remodel enough to continue educating children in them. If, however, we can hand both of those buildings over to our partners at GE Johnson immediately, the likelihood we'll achieve this goal increases exponentially, despite the many supply challenges we are now facing.
What tears at my heart most is that, while our instructional staff is doing absolutely amazing work sustaining relationships with students and driving learning forward, neither they or our children have had the opportunity to properly say goodbye. Because of this, if we can find a way in late May to bring students back for a safe visit to their classrooms, and their parents are comfortable allowing them to do so, we will, literally, keep the door open to this as an option.
I suspect this decision will elicit many questions. I hope I'm able to answer most of them right here:
How will it be determined if my child can advance to the next grade, or if she or he has successfully completed secondary credits needed to stay on track to graduate?
Prior to the Stay At Home order, K-5 schools were already communicating with families if a child was at risk of not advancing to the next grade level. If a student has stayed engaged in school work and is showing evidence of growth and ability at the appropriate level, they will be moved to the next grade level. Students in grades 6-12 must earn credits to progress in their education, and that can only be done by staying engaged in learning and completing their assignments at an acceptable level.
What will happen with our Cañon City High School graduation ceremony?
I commend CCHS Principal Bill Summers for his patient approach to addressing this matter. He and his staff have already arranged for each member of the Class of 2020 to receive a yard sign honoring their achievement. He also asked the Class of 2020 what they would like us to do for them and received a 90% favorable response to an option to re-schedule the event to July 30, 2020, at 7:30 PM at Citizens' Stadium. This should even allow the community to treat the Class of 2020 to a traditional Fun-Fest on the evening of July 29th. Please know there is still a bit of risk that such gatherings may not be allowed. However, as of now, we are moving forward with this plan.
What will we do for our graduates who have committed to enter the military in June or early July?
The U.S. military recognizes the situation recruits are in and has offered enlistees the opportunity to postpone entry into the service if their graduation ceremony has been delayed.
What will we do about traditional 8th-grade continuation ceremonies?
As stated above, if we can safely bring students back to campus before the end of the year to say goodbye to their teachers we will. However, we are also making plans to incorporate a special transition ceremony into Cañon City High School's freshman orientation process when the Class of 2024 is welcomed to the building. Parents and family will be welcome to attend.
What services will be provided by the school district during the summer of 2020?
Our plans are to continue distributing school meals in a mobile fashion throughout the summer. We'll also open a dining area as soon as doing so is allowable.
Though Pueblo Community College is not allowing us to use the Fremont Campus this summer, if allowable, Cañon City Schools will operate the summer Splash program by using Cañon City High School.
We also have plans to operate an expanded summer school program during July and possibly as late as early August. This will be key to catching students up if they have fallen a bit behind.
Will other summer programs such as Kids Klub and Boys and Girls Club be up and running?
When it becomes allowable in a safe manner, our doors will once again be open to these valued community partners who support the growth and development of our children.
How will the Chromebook my child has been using be returned to the district?
We'll need to collect all Chromebooks at the end of May so we can perform routine maintenance on them prior to the 2020-21 school year. Our hope is this can be done in a tightly scheduled and controlled manner and as part of our effort to allow students to see their teachers in person one last time before the summer. Each school will communicate this plan to parents as we get closer to needing to do so. Please also note the Class of 2021 will NOT be required to turn their Chromebooks in, as many of them will need them to continue work on their capstone projects.
I thank you for the patience you have exercised with us during this difficult time. I can personally attest that, though they can not be with your children in person, our staff has never worked harder or with more purpose than right now. Each day I am overcome by their willingness to go the extra mile to support student wellness and learning.
This decision has been the most excruciating of my 23-year career as a superintendent of schools. I hope it will contribute to the safe, gradual, and long-term re-opening of our community, and the renewed success of our local economy.
I thank each of you who have been here to support us, in the past and in this time of tremendous need. We'll continue to do our best to do the same for you.
George S. Welsh
Superintendent of Schools