Graduation ceremony, prom may not happen for Dothan High’s first class, superintendent says

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — The first graduating class of the new Dothan High School may miss some milestones because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Dothan City Schools Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards.

In a virtual press conference, Edwards addressed numerous concerns over the future of the spring semester, including how remote learning will work and what will happen to this year’s prom and graduation.

“At this time, we have been told, and I think it’s clear, from the state and from the feds, that there will not be able to be any types of gatherings like that,” Edwards said. “It is extremely unfortunate. We’re all very, very sorry that this has happened. I know seniors, just in general, look forward to this time, and we look forward to it too, to be able to celebrate with them. It’s a huge milestone.

If the pandemic ends soon enough and Alabama’s state of emergency is lifted, Edwards said there may be a celebration in the summer, but the situation is still fluid.

In the meanwhile, the school system is working on different methods of remote learning. Edwards said while many teachers are using Google classroom, other companies have made themselves available to help for an eight-to-twelve-week period.

“A lot of companies have sent resources, and we have tabulated those resources, and we have entire charts of free materials, including different types of platforms, that teachers will be able to use, and I’m grateful for that,” she said.

However, the method of instruction will be up to the teacher or school, so Edwards could not say which ones would be used by all the teachers.

As for the costs of transition to remote learning, Edwards said it is hard to determine how much DCS will have to spend until the system learns what the families will need.

“This week and next week, the principals and other staff will be reaching out to parents to try to ascertain what’s the best way they can communicate,” she said. “We know that there are students that may not have internet capability.”

At the elementary level, the system is considering doing packets or some kind of paper lesson. However, until the system learns what its families need, the solutions and their costs are still up in the air.

For example, acquiring Chromebooks for families could cost DCS hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on how many they need.

Just to do a lease of Chromebooks at the last DCS board meeting cost the system over $300,000. To put more Chromebooks into students’ hands could cost another $500,000, according to Edwards.

While the state is giving guidelines to local school systems, no plans have been made to bolster their funds yet. Edwards said some relief could come from federal relief packages, but that may take a month or two.

She also said teachers will also have to make choices on how they will deliver their lessons now that they will not be teaching in person. Some of this may involve speaking with students over the phone, mail, or other methods.

According to Edwards, students will remember the teachers and principals who reached out during this “unprecedented” situation, giving an opportunity for educators to bond with their students in different ways even without a traditional learning environment.

“So I want you all to be safe, stay safe, and be healthy, and that’s what we have to keep our mind on right now,” she said.

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