Earlier this summer, high school districts in Sacramento and San Joaquin counties planned to hold in-person graduation ceremonies for seniors in the event that communities had reduced the spread of COVID-19.
But as the number of positive cases across the state continues to climb, many school districts throughout California are now officially canceling those ceremonies.
The latest is the Galt Joint Union High School District.
Superintendent William Spalding posted a letter on the district’s website Monday announcing the decision.
“We have recently consulted with the Sacramento County Public Health Department and they have notified us that the order of May, 2020 that bans graduation ceremonies other than drive-through graduation remain in force, due to the surge of coronavirus infections in our area,” Spalding said. “Because we are unable to provide a traditional-style graduation ceremony other than the activity already provided on June 2, we will need to cancel the ceremonies planned for Aug. 22.”
As of Sunday, Sacramento County public health reported 8,903 positive cases of COVID-19 and 108 deaths. In Galt, there have been 344 cases and two deaths, the agency reported. The county also reported 239 hospitalizations from COVID-19 on Sunday, with 69 people in intensive care units.
Spalding’s announcement affects ceremonies planned for Galt, Liberty Ranch and Estrillita high schools, and comes nearly one month after Lodi Unified School District announced it would cancel ceremonies for all its high schools due to the pandemic.
“We know this is disappointing and we apologize for not being able to provide this event,” Spalding said. “We remain proud of our Class of 2020 and the strength and persistence you have shown through this pandemic and these challenging times. We have every confidence that this class will go on to achieve great success and make us proud.”
Much like other school districts, GJUHSD is also discussing how to move forward with a 100% distance learning program in the fall.
Last Thursday, the district’s Board of Education was presented with a school calendar and details of how the distance learning program will be implemented this fall.
According to the presentations, currently posted at www.ghsd.us under the “Board” tab and by clicking on “Presentation and Report Archives,” the first day of school is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 17, and the final day of instruction will be June 3.
“The distance learning we have planned for the fall is going to be much different than what we had in the spring,” Spalding said Monday afternoon. “We’re calling the spring ‘pandemic learning.’ Over the summer we had a lot more work we were able to do with a lot more time. We were working with people to develop a plan.”
Students will be issued schedules, textbooks, laptops or Chromebooks and other supplies the week of Aug. 10. Seniors will receive their materials Aug. 10, juniors on Aug. 11, sophomores on Aug. 12, and freshmen on Aug. 13. Anyone who was unable to pick up their supplies those days will be able to do so on Aug. 14.
Daily attendance, period by period will be required.
A sample week would see Monday full of small group instruction, department and staff meetings, and professional development workshops divided into four sections over the course of seven hours.
The remaining days of the weeks would see three periods of instruction from 8 to 11:14 a.m., with two periods of lunch, followed by a fourth period at 12:35 p.m. Staff and teachers would have office hours at 1:40 p.m. and distance learning preparation from 2 to 3 p.m.
Spalding said on Monday afternoon that the 2020-21 calendar could change in the next couple of weeks. It is unknown how long the district will continue with district learning.
Two weeks ago, the LUSD board of education voted to implement distance learning for the entire fist quarter of instruction.
Spalding said he and the board would like to have in-person instruction as soon as possible.
However, Sacramento County must be removed from the California Department of Health’s COVID-19 watch list for 14 consecutive days.
“Our goal is to get to in-person instruction when it is safely possible to do so,” he said. “And when we come off that watch list we want to be ready for some sort of in-person instruction.”
Last week, the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District announced it would begin the school year with distance learning as well.
Dr. Karen Schauer, the district’s superintendent, said in a letter to parents on July 22 that the tentative first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 20, with the final day of class planned for June 4, 2021.
Like Lodi Unified, the GJUESD has provided a directory of mental health links and resources online at gjuesd-ca.schoolloop.com.
Resources include emails for 14 counselors, as well as phone numbers for suicide and crisis hotlines.
The page also provides links to articles providing tips about how to speak with your student about COVID-19 and its impact, as well as links to caregiver providers and apps for a child’s mental well-being, among other resources.