MHS considering graduation parade for class of 2020
District officials, student representatives developing alternatives to annual tradition
A graduation parade? It's a possibility, according to Mitchell High School Principal Joe Childs.
The Mitchell Board of Education on Monday night heard an update from Childs on potential graduation and commencement ceremony options, including a parade, for the Mitchell High School class of 2020.
The meeting, originally scheduled to take place at the Mitchell Career & Technical Education Academy, took place via telephone and video conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Childs laid out some of the options he and student leaders have discussed in recent meetings about the annual tradition that is now in limbo due to the closure of the school district for the remainder of the year and the social distancing recommendations from state leaders and health officials in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s just in the beginning stages. I’ve been meeting with the senior class president and vice-president and the student body president and vice-president,” Childs told the board. “There are a lot of unknowns, of course, because we don’t know when restrictions will be lifted, but they would like to have something in place before they leave for the military or college or the workplace.”
Childs said one idea that had been floated was a parade that could be held somewhere in Mitchell. Students from the senior class would line the streets while maintaining social distancing recommendations. Family, friends and community members could then drive through the parade route and offer greetings from their vehicles as they pass by the students.
“The students would be the ones to line the street and family and friends would be driving past, so that each graduate could be recognized,” Childs said.
He said that sort of event could be held relatively close to the originally scheduled commencement date of May 17.
An actual commencement ceremony would likely be held sometime later in the summer or possibly next fall.
“An option is to have commencement during the summer months before students have gone. We’re looking at doing something before August. We could have it a Joe Quintal Field with a contingency plan of having it at the Performing Arts Center in the event of weather,” Childs said.
Childs also said he would like some of the smaller traditions typically associated with graduation to be held if social distancing restrictions are loosened. He noted the annual senior breakfast would be a nice event to hold since senior students abruptly lost their interaction opportunities with other seniors when the district moved to eLearning to continue the school year.
“I’m encouraging our officers to think about holding some of those senior events. I’d like to have the senior breakfast. The seniors haven’t had a chance to say goodbye and haven’t seen each other (since the school closure),” Childs said.
Childs expects more meetings in the near future to continue discussions. He said at the moment he is checking on the feasibility of options the group has already come up with and will dig deeper into possibilities the next time they meet.
“We’ve come up with a plan and I’m following up to see if those suggestions are something we can put into motion. Once the officers are in agreement, I’ll reach out to the senior students for feedback, and once we have something finalized, we’ll let everyone know what the plans are,” Childs said.
Joe Graves, superintendent for the district, also noted that any final plans would be brought before the board of education.
School closure FAQ
Graves presented the board a list of frequently asked questions concerning school closing and eLearning.
The document, which lists answers to 24 commonly asked questions from district patrons pertaining to elements of the eLearning process is on the Mitchell School District website under the school board tab.
“My intent is once we’re done is to place them on the website next to the updates on school closure information,” Graves said.
Lacey Musick, a member of the board, said Mitchell Middle School had sent out information on contact times and office hours for teachers to help parents and students contact them easily. She asked if there was anything similar being offered at Mitchell High School.
Childs said teachers at the high school should be available during normal school hours.
“They are required to communicate with students daily,” Childs said. “Most of them are utilizing Zoom but also use other platforms. And I know several, if not all, high school teachers have reached out to parents.”
Middle school handbook
Graves outlined several changes to the Mitchell Middle School handbook for the 2021 school year.
The changes primarily stem from the need to clarify language and procedures, Graves said.
“These (changes) came about because there was either a law change in Pierre, or we found an error between policy and practice or to align with the Mitchell Education Association,” Graves said.
Some of the changes to the handbook include eliminating extraneous information under the activities section to make the document more readable and clarifying an eligibility question, updates for additional avenues of notification of cancellations under the school cancellations section and updating local contacts for concerns related to Title IX and civil rights publication sections.
The board made several personnel moves at the meeting, including approval of:
- The certified hires of Taylor Brekke, 0.8 FTE music teacher and 0.2 FTE Title at Longfellow, $43,250; Amy Tyler, 8th grade ELA teacher and assistant track varsity coach, $51,900 and $2,585 coaching; John Tyler, Mitchell Middle School principal, $80,000; Robert Lemon, science, chemistry and physical science teacher at Mitchell High School, $48,000; Bobby Reindl, assistant principal at Mitchell Middle School, $63,500 and Heather Zins, special education teacher at Mitchell High School, $43,875. All hires are for the 2020-21 school year.
- The transfers of Margaret Stolp, Begindergarten/Title 1 at Gertie Belle Rogers to second grade teacher at Gertie Belle Rogers; Ryker Kreutzfeldt, 0.6 FTE math instructor at Mitchell High School to 1.0 FTE math teacher at Mitchell High School; Kendra Widstrom, 1.0 FTE match teacher at Mitchell High School to 0.6 FTE math teacher at Mitchell High School and Chad Lentsch, 5th grade teacher at L.B. Williams to 8th grade science teacher at Mitchell Middle School. All transfers are effective for the 2020-21 school year.
- The resignations of Paula Bures, 8th grade math teacher; Brittney Eide, assistant principal at Mitchell Middle School; Rebecca Millan, assistant debate coach; Ashley Stetson, para educator at Mitchell Middle School; Bobby Reindl, 5th grade teacher and co-director of the 21st Century Grant and Jodi Norden, 8th grade science teacher at Mitchell Middle School. All resignations are effective at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
- The new hires of Tyle Hockett, business instructor at Mitchell Technical Institute, $50,000, effective in Aug. 2020.
- The MTI retirement of Janet Nicolaus, instructor at MTI, effective at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
- The MTI resignation of Todd Braun, ECM instructor, effective the end of the 2019-20 school year.
Also Monday, the board:
Reviewed and approved the district audit for the 2018-19 school year.
Selected Ellie C. Saxer as their ballot choice for director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota for districts in the 1,400 to 9,999 enrollment category. Saxer is with the Brandon Valley School District.
Approved the first reading of changes to district policies from sections 400 through 600. Graves said the district policies are brought before the board every summer for review and possible changes. The 400 series deals with fiscal management, the 500 series with support services and the 600 series with facilities development.
Authorized its membership in the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
The next meeting of the Mitchell Board of Education is scheduled for 5 p.m. April 27. That meeting is expected to again be held via phone and video conference.