Administrators Plan for Closing Out Year

Weakley County School Administrators Plan for Closing Out School Year
Posted on 04/17/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Weakley County School Administrators Plan for Closing Out School YearWeakley County Schools Director Randy Frazier, staff and principals met online on Thursday to determine the next steps of closing out the 2019-20 academic year. The meeting followed Governor Bill Lee’s recommendation on Wednesday to close all Tennessee schools for the remainder of the year.

Among the items covered in the administrators’ meeting were meals, grading, graduation and the gradual return to school facilities.

Frazier began by praising the principals, teachers and staff who have worked alongside cafeteria staff to provide for nearly 100,000 meals since schools closed. He reminded meeting participants that meal distribution will now take place on Tuesdays and Friday. He also announced that the meal program will continue through the summer and until school restarts in August.

Next, he reviewed the recent actions of the State Board of Education in their emergency meeting to enact rules related to the COVID-19 closures across the state including:
• Seniors’ required credits reduced from 22 to 20
• Mandate for high school grading to follow state uniform grading policy and follow a similar formula statewide for calculating GPA
• Districts allowed to determine grading for Kindergarten-8th grade as a local decision.
Frazier announced a meeting on Friday with high school principals and counselors to discuss implications for Seniors’ grades. He also asked all principals to arrange online meetings with their faculty as soon as possible to discuss grading. Along with that, he requested plans be made for teachers’ staggered return to the facilities.

“We want to adhere to social distancing and at the same time prepare for the school year to be closed out on the books and in the building,” noted Frazier.

He asked principals to determine a coordinated plan for allowing teachers back in the buildings in small groups so that all assignments can be graded and all grades posted. Schools would also need to create a plan by which students can return all materials such as books and computers and receive items they left behind when schools closed March 16.

A process by which report cards can be distributed safely must be on each school’s agenda as well.
Frazier noted the district has flexibility on how to determine a numerical score for grades and offered several options for principals to consider.

“We had nine weeks of instruction in the second semester,” he pointed out. “We could take five of the six weeks and average. Or we could take the first semester and double it and then let the second semester count as only a third.

“We can’t pick any situation that is going to feel fair for everyone,” he acknowledged. “But I hope we can find a way to be the most lenient.”

Leniency could take many forms, the group determined. Once students who are failing or on the borderline are clearly identified, additional work could be offered.

However, equity is a concern due to the need to address the specific needs of special needs students and the fact that a large portion of the Weakley student population is without internet access. Any form of instruction to help a student improve would have to be in print and would have to be adapted for special needs.

“Unchartered situations call for unchartered decisions,” he noted. “I hope we err on the side of moving students forward.”

The guidance from the state is clear – any student passing prior to March 16 when Weakley County Schools closed will pass.

For Seniors, who were not on track, efforts will be made to help them meet graduation requirements. Conversations with principals and counselors prior to the online meeting revealed that, countywide, only a few seniors are in the area of concern.

Principals then discussed several options for graduation ceremonies. The current plan is to keep the date of May 15 as a graduation date with May 1 as the deadline to determine how ceremonies might look. If social distancing guidelines have been adjusted to allow for larger gatherings, May 15 will stand. If not, then on May 1 an alternate date or alternate approach to the ceremonies will be announced.

Frazier noted that principals should now determine how graduation and yearbook vendors will be allowed to distribute ordered items on their campuses.

He said his greatest concerns for the upcoming year were the learning engagement of the specials need population and young readers. Current efforts to keep children engaged in learning without grading their work or requiring it to be turned in will continue he said. Next up for teachers after determining grades will be to assess what standards were covered by the time schools closed and what areas remained to be covered.

“Some of our classes may have covered all standards. Some may have planned to do so in later months. We need a good picture of where we need to start in first weeks of next year. May 1 would be the deadline for teachers to see what the answer is to that,” Frazier said.

“I believe enough in our teachers and the ability of our administrators that we can come up with a plan that our student gap is not going to be as big and wide as people have thought. I am receiving questionable emails from across the state suggesting it will be vast, but I don’t believe that is the case in Weakley County. If our teachers know what they are dealing with, I think we can make sure that those standards are covered when the 2020-21 year begins.”