Graduation still being mulled - Odessa American: Education

Graduation still being mulled

By Ruth Campbell rcampbell@oaoa.com | Posted: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 5:15 pm

Ector County ISD officials are still figuring out how to handle the milestone of graduation this spring in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Superintendent Scott Muri said he had a virtual meeting April 3 with a group of juniors and seniors. He said they will likely not graduate in the traditional sense.

“Their ask of the system is that we in some way figure out how to hold a traditional graduation in the future, so if we’re not able to do it in May we do it at some time at the end of the summer, or maybe in December, or maybe next year. We talked about what an opportunity may look like for kids, but they’re interested in having a traditional ceremony some day and so we’re going to talk about that internally if that’s something we’re going to be able to do for them. But I certainly hope that we can. I think they deserve it,” Muri said.

He noted that the students have to have a diploma if they’re moving on to college or they are going to get a job.

“We will provide some type of opportunity. If it’s not the traditional ceremony, we’ll do something to recognize and honor our kids,” Muri said.

While there was strategic planning, middle school redesign and curriculum tweaking going on before the pandemic struck, the main focus right now has been to stand up and effectively operate remote school, Muri said.

“That’s where the predominance of our energy has been spent over the last several weeks and it will continue to be focused in that area because it’s so new for us. In addition to that, we also recognize that we have to pay attention to the 2021 school year and beyond,” he added.

He said the strategic plan, which is work for the next five years, will be forthcoming but “now’s not the time.”

The lack of students in school buildings has allowed ECISD to catch up on maintenance.

“We’ve dispatched some of our maintenance employees. If they’re able to work by themselves on some of those projects, some of those projects are continuing. Our custodians continue to clean the facilities. All of our facilities are used five days a week, but not by a full staff or a group of students so we have minimal use of some facilities and a minimal number of custodians are there to make sure the facilities are taken care of and address any concerns,” Muri said.

“The cleaning is critically important right now because of the virus, so we’ve got to make sure things are clean for the folks that are working there,” he added.

Asked about a reduction in workforce, Muri said the district is not looking at that.

“We’re good through the 30th of June and we are continuing as we have … We are filling certain vacancies. We are filling certain roles in our district, so that type of hiring continues. We have a dearth of teachers. We are continuing to hire teachers in many of those critical shortage areas that we have,” Muri said.

Currently a big focus of professional development is bringing teachers up to speed and equipping them for remote teaching.

“Remote teaching is very different from what most of our teachers are accustomed to, so there’s a lot of professional development, a lot of learning happening all over our system right now to adapt to this new normal,” Muri said.

During the summer, that learning will continue for teachers and students, he added.

“Part of being an educator is being a lifelong learner and learning we will continue throughout the summer. Learning will continue for kids. We’ll continue to do some exciting things for kids during the summer that may look different from your traditional summer camp, but we’ll continue to provide learning for them and certainly for staff members,” Muri said.

The first virtual ECISD School Board of Trustees meeting will be at 6 p.m. April 14.

“We’re excited about that opportunity,” Muri said. “We’re going to use a software application. We’ll be sending that information out this week and we will invite the public to join us for that virtual board meeting; kind of something new for us.”