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AUSD Announces Dates, Plans for Virtual Graduations; Fall Term To Begin in August

Photo by David Muñoz.

Location

Alhambra , CA

As the Alhambra Unified School District’s school year heads into its final weeks, Superintendent Denise R. Jaramillo outlined steps to honor graduating seniors in this climate of “Safe at Home” guidelines due to COVID-19. 

Jaramillo detailed the plan at a special AUSD board of education meeting Friday afternoon that was held by teleconference. She said that L.A. County Officials are not recommending that schools reopen in late July, a thought recently put forward by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Jaramillo said that AUSD would reopen for the fall semester on August 12, 2020 but gave strong hints that distance learning would be the standard as the district begins the new term.

In presenting the district’s plan to honor graduates and begin a new school year, Jaramillo repeatedly emphasized that the decisions being made were the results of guidance provided by the L.A. County Office of Education and the L.A. County Department of Public Health. That guidance was effective as of May 1 and, while she held out a bit of hope for in-person celebrations for graduates, there was little in what she said that indicated the county agencies guidelines would change.

The difficult message for end-of-year graduations is this that no celebration, even in vehicles, should take place. Such gatherings, the county guidance said, may prove difficult to ensure the safety of students and families. School leaders in various communities were urged by the county to find alternate ways to honor graduates.

To that end, here are some of the steps that AUSD is planning, again all subject to change if circumstances warrant.

  • Virtual graduation will be streamed and posted on YouTube on June 8, at 6 p.m. for Alhambra High School and Mark Keppel High School. San Gabriel High School’s virtual graduation will be on June 9, also at 6 p.m. and Century and Independence high schools will have their virtual graduations on June 12, at 6. p.m.
  •  Personalized senior cinch bags with cap & gown distributed on May 15. The bags will contain a variety of free and purchased items including diploma cover, senior T-shirt, yearbook (purchased) and panoramic picture (also purchased)
  • Lawn signs for each senior which will distributed on May 15
  • Virtual college/career decision day — last week of May
  • Congratulations banners posted in Alhambra & Monterey Park
  • Graduates names will be listed in Around Alhambra and Monterey Park Cascade
  • Alhambra Source will offer a video salute to AUSD Class of 2020

Jaramillo also described plans for 8th grade virtual promotions, which included:

  • 8th graders will receive an electronic Promotion Program via Blackboard Connect Ed
  • Donation of 13 colored banners individualized with each school’s Mascot and colors
    • These will be place in a visible area of each school beginning on Monday, May 11, 2020
  • Recorded 8th grade promotion ceremony to recognize their 8th grade students along with 8th grade teacher teams. 

Plans for distribution off certificates and PTA commemorative goodies are still in the works.

These plans, too, may change if there is an opportunity for in-person graduation but that eventuality seemed slim.

The coming 2020-2021 school year was much on the minds of many and Jaramillo first outlined the criteria for in-person education. She said that the district could only open when it had a plan in place for physical distancing—meaning a six-foot distance between all students, faculty and staff — for each hour schools are are occupied each day.

As some AUSD classes normally house 30 or more students this may pose a large challenge.

She also said that under the current guidelines put forth for the LA County Office of Education and the L.A. County Department of Public Health there would be no school assemblies, no sporting events nor dances and limited social events.

Recesses would be a challenge and while she did not specifically address that topic, it seemed clear that these activities would fall under new stringent guidelines.

In addition to the physical distancing, masks and face coverings would be required for all students, staff and faculty. Those district employees over the age of 65 or with underlying health issues would be required to work at home.

And that criteria and strict adherence to the DPH guidelines must be in place before even beginning to entertain the thought of a reopening of in-person education. She said that she expected additional guidelines from the county agencies at the end of May.

The district, she said, was also preparing to release an “Extended School Closure Survey,” which will be sent to home on May 18.

What seemed clear from her presentation is that AUSD, like hundreds of districts around the state, is looking at starting the school year with distance learning and, perhaps, a phased return. Child care and an alternative calendar would also be factors in the decision-making spectrum.

Her powerpoint presentation ended with the somber note that all these plans are being worked out and reviewed while the district was preparing to face the harsh realities of the “worst budget deficit in state history.”

This will clearly have an impact going forward and would presumably be the topic of much discussion at upcoming board meetings. 

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