COVID-19 has shaken up schooling, a fact made apparent by Cleveland Public School’s plans for a parking lot “graduation experience” and the district’s implementation of new grading guidelines.
Cleveland won’t be having a regular graduation ceremony this year on account of Minnesota Department of Health guidelines warning schools against large, in-person events. Instead, on Friday, May 29 the district is proceeding with a parade and drive-in graduation experience to honor students while also limiting the potential spread of the coronavirus.
The festivities are planned to start at 6:15 p.m. with a vehicle parade of graduates and their immediate families driving through the community. KTOE will be broadcasting songs and shoutouts as a tribute to the seniors as they make their way to the school.
At 7 p.m., the Cleveland parking lot will be filled on an invitation-only basis for what will be a quick graduation with speeches kept under five minutes. Only graduates and their immediate families will be allowed to attend, but extended family and friends will be able to witness the graduation through a livestream. Speeches at the graduation will be hybrid of in-person and digital, including virtual class memory speech by some seniors and three awards.
“We worked extensively with Le Sueur County Health,” said Principal Scott Lusk. “I want to thank them for helping us to put this together and make this happen safely. That’s my biggest concern is safety for everyone. I think we have a plan that will do a great job of keeping everything a safe as we can so we can meet all the guidelines. That’s the biggest thing.”
After the speeches, graduates will walk onstage to collect their diplomas. Instead of being handed a diploma, the seniors will instead pick it up off a table to ensure that the process is contactless. Throughout the graduation, Cleveland Police and Fire will supply traffic control to ensure the event is well-run.
“Your emotions go everywhere, because you wish you could do so much more for these kids,” said Lusk. “I’m glad that we’re able to do something for these students because it’s a great class … Everybody right now needs something like this just for a pick me up and I hope that’s what we can do with this. It’s not going to look normal, it’s not going to feel normal, but it’s something that we can celebrate right now at this time.”
New grading system
In light of distance learning, the Cleveland Public School Board approved new grading options for students that have fallen behind. In line with recent guidance form the Minnesota Department of Education, Cleveland is giving additional time to students to obtain a passing grade.
On May 1, the MDE encouraged districts to prohibit failing grades and instead give students additional time or report non-passing grades as ‘in-progress.’
“Students would benefit from educators using growth-based terminology,” the guidance states. “Every day, and especially during this time when students are experiencing so much uncertainty and so many situations over which they have no control, students benefit from educators using growth-based terminology in every possible situation. A student should not be reported as a failure and retained or given an F during this unprecedented situation.”
As part of this new model, Cleveland is allowing students to have one on one time with teachers as part of an eight day intervention. During this time, teachers assist their students with the areas they are struggling in to catch them up and achieve a passing grade. Students who go through this process will not be assigned a pass/fail grade. Instead, grades will be recorded with a different terminology for passing and in progress grades..
“It’s a lot of work for our teachers, but the students will get the most benefit from a one on one meeting by Google Meet,” said Lusk. “In this model, the teacher is able to figure out what the kid mostly would need. If I give you 20 late assignments or something, you’re just going to shut down. So instead, you can pick and choose what your students need most. And the big thing is there something going on that they can’t do normally so just having those social interactions with those kids is huge.”