Olton High School’s Class of 2020 will graduate at 9 p.m., Friday, May 22 at Stars and Stripes Drive-in Theater in Lubbock.
Olton Independent School District Superintendent Kevin McCasland made the announcement at 4 p.m., Monday, April 27, 2020.
He had promised a graduation of some kind last week.
“We just don’t know what it would look like right now because we really don’t know,” he said last week. “But we are going to do graduation on that day.”
On Monday, we was able to release more details, although lots of things still have to be worked out.
The superintendent said the gates to the theater will open at 8 p.m., one hour before graduation exercises begin. Each graduate will be allowed to have two vehicles enter the theater grounds.
Gov. Greg Abbott closed school campuses through the last day of instruction for the 2019-2020 school year, which for OISD is May 21. There had been some thought that might clear the way for seniors to actually cross the stage the following day. However, the Texas Education Agency and state officials haven’t determined if that means a campus could reopen for graduation.
“We just don’t know,” McCasland said last week. “We are going to watch the landscape of what will be allowed. We might be normal. It might be that we can come back and do it, but it might be that we have to do it another way. The specifics are to come. We don’t know if we will be back to normal or not.”
But as more information became available, OISD officials came up with the plan for a drive-in graduation.
“We don’t know the specifics, but we are having graduation,” McCasland said last week. “We will see what will be allowed.”
Now, a little more is known. However, the superintendent made it clear more information will be announced as it becomes available.
There is good news for kindergarten students and athletes too.
Olton Independent School District Superintendent Kevin McCasland announced at 10:30 a.m., Friday, April 27, 2020, that graduation ceremonies for Olton High School seniors will take place on Friday, May 22, 2020, although he noted that exactly how it will occur is yet to be determined. And later in the day he offered more good news.
In a statement posted on the district’s Facebook page shortly after 1 p.m. McCasland announced that the 2020 kindergarten graduation will occur on Thursday, May 21, 2020.
“There are no specifics at this time for either program other than the date,” the superintendent said. “Please stay tuned for updates and specifics.”
And he said there will be some kind of digital Athletic Banquet for the Mustangs and Fillies.
“(Athletic Director) Ross Lassiter will be making arrangements and communicating plans,” McCasland said. “Please stay tuned to his announcement.”
But the superintendent did have good news yet about two annual social events for students — OHS Prom and the OHJS Eighth Grade Banquet.
“We are making plans to attempt to have these events,” the superintendent said. “Please stay tuned for an announcement regarding tentative plans and a date for these events.”
No plans have been made for other awards ceremonies, but McCasland said those would have to be digital.
McCasland said the district feels there are many important events. However, making those events happen is a challenging endeavor with campuses closed for classroom instruction.
“As always, we are trying to make plans going forward,” the superintendent said.
He said three imperatives are guiding the the decision-making process. First, to ensure safety for students, staff, and community members; second to ensure students are fed; and third to deliver and support instruction.”
“While we are proud of these programs and like to celebrate and honor each one of them, these are the only programs that OISD is planning to host as an event,” he said. “Thank you for your tremendous patience, support and pride.”
Olton High School seniors’ grade point averages and class ranks will be calculated using the first four six-weeks periods of the 2019-2020 school year, according to a resolution adopted by school trustees Monday night.
But members of the Class of 2020 must complete their assignments for the last two six-weeks periods if they want to graduate and get a diploma. A determination of “Pass” or “Incomplete” will be used in place of some or all numerical grades during the time of school closure. If seniors want to graduate, they still have to do the work required.
Troy Don Allcorn moved for adoption of the resolution modifying policies and procedures on grading, promotion, class rank and related instructional issues during periods of school closure due to COVID-19. Board Vice President Ruben Luera seconded the motion to adopt, which passed on a 6-0-1 vote. Michael Ramage abstained because of the involvement of his wife, H.P. Webb Elementary Principal Stacie Ramage. The resolution addresses grading and promotion at all academic levels in addition to setting policy for GPAs and class ranks, including valedictorians and salutatorians.
“The board gave me authority to suspend current guidelines in place and has allowed me flexibility to oversee our school district in grading guidelines,” Superintendent Kevin McCasland said. “What this resolution is designed to do is to be a little more specific in terms of class rank. Grades — as far as grade point average and class rank things — will expire at the end of the fourth six-weeks period. We will not use fifth or sixth six-weeks grades in that process.”
“In a nut shell, especially concerning seniors, the idea is that grades will be cut off at the end of the fourth six weeks,” he said.
But the Class of 2020 is not off the hook.
“There still will be a continuation of school,” McCasland said. “We will continue the learning process in terms of having homework and assignments, and those things will be expected to continue. But in terms of assigning a grade to a senior and a class rank on some unfair circumstances, the resolution best serves our need.”
The resolution appears to authorize the superintendent to oversee the grading and promotion process for other grade levels as well, providing the option to use a determination of “Pass” or “Incomplete” at those levels too, if deemed necessary.
“We are trying to figure out for kids below senior grade level,” the superintendent said. “They will for sure receive a grade of ‘Pass’ or ‘Incomplete’ as will the seniors. But as far as how their grade will work below seniors, that is still a little bit up in the air. This resolution gives authority to handle that situation.”
Trustees had questions about the temporary policy change before voting to adopt the resolution.
Board president Connie Maxwell said she had checked to make sure the policy change was OK with the Texas Education Agency. “It gives local control on it. We have complete authority on it,” she said.
With that authority issue established, she then asked, “They would still be required to complete whatever assignments their instructors give them? This is strictly the class ranking as far as valedictorian, salutatorian, and the class ranking that gets people admitted into universities, correct?”
McCasland described issues regarding credits in classes as “Still a work in play that I’m overseeing. But as far as class rank and final GPA, those things will be on the fourth six weeks.”
Tullie Struve asked how other school districts are handling grading, promotion and class rank issues.
“I don’t know that I’ve talked to anybody that is taking their grades after the fourth six weeks,” the superintendent said. “The idea of the fourth six weeks is very standard.”
Luera wanted to make sure everyone in the district is “on the same page” about grading, promotion and class rank issues.
“They will support it, but they are not on the same page yet because it has not been voted on yet,” McCasland said. “If we try to take 55 opinions on this and try to consolidate it, it’s not going to work. The reality is to say, ‘What makes the most sense? What is the most reasonable? Then, you go with that.”
The resolution states that the “Pass” or “Incomplete” standard “may be used to assist in making decisions regarding end-of-semester grades, retention and promotion, and the award of course credit.”
It states usual grading policies, procedures, regulations, rules or practices are “impossible or impractical due to the school closure and issues related to distance learning” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. And it notes, “Any temporary modifications to, or suspensions of, policies, regulations, and procedures apply only for the 2019-2020 school year.”