Cherokee school chief will recommend ending school year on May 8

From Cherokee County Superintendent Brian V. Hightower to parents today:

We have learned many lessons over the past month, and some of those have been lessons re-learned.

Like that our school families connect and strengthen even if our buildings are closed. Our children show us their resilience, their optimism — their best, when put to the test. And that it sometimes is hard to see the rainbow beyond the storm clouds, but it’s still there.

Thank you all for answering our surveys: 20,837 parents, 2,654 teachers and 3,227 high school students, each responded to their own set of questions to help guide our way. Your appreciation for our teachers and staff is reaffirming, and your hardships are heard. We are reviewing all of your suggestions as to how we can further improve in our remaining weeks of online learning.

Based on these survey results, which you can review here, I will be asking the School Board to approve my recommendation that the last day of school be moved up to May 8. Within this schedule, there will be no state Milestones tests or CCSD final exams; AP course exams will be administered online May 11-22 by the College Board. 

Between May 9-22, teachers will work with students who need more help to complete assignments, pass exams, and prepare for AP tests. On May 22, teachers will issue final grades (through emailed report cards for elementary and middle and in Canvas for high school); as mentioned in a previous weekly newsletter, performance prior to March 13 will be considered. During these last days of May teachers also will begin planning for next school year, with their last day of work on May 22. More information will be provided later to teachers about how they will complete post-planning; the calendar changes will not affect teachers’ contracted pay. 

Also based on your input, I will also be asking the School Board to adopt the following plan for graduation: if social distancing guidelines have changed by July 1 to allow for traditional ceremonies, we then will schedule them at a location and on a schedule to be determined. However, if large gatherings remain a public health risk as of July 1, we will plan a virtual ceremony so as to not further delay this milestone. No matter which outcome, each graduate will receive their diploma and, based upon their request and supported by their parents’ responses, a keepsake cap and gown. More importantly, no matter the outcome, I know that we, as a community, will ensure our Class of 2020 is congratulated and celebrated. I am incredibly proud of each of them.

The School Board will consider these recommendations on Thursday evening, and my office that same evening will email a follow-up report to all parents and employees.

Many of you have asked about how the continued school closure will affect cleaning out lockers and retrieving students’ other belongings; summer programs; and the first day of school. Over the next few days, we will develop a plan to allow students to retrieve remaining belongings and return textbooks, technology and other school materials. As of today, we plan to offer summer school programs in some form, with the details still being planned. The first day of school remains scheduled for Aug. 3. We will continue to keep you informed.

We are all in this together — another lesson we have re-learned, and I hope we always will remember.

Thank you for everything,

Dr. Brian V. Hightower
Superintendent of Schools

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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