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RSS still plans on hosting in-person graduation ceremonies

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Most high school students still want in-person graduation ceremonies when state orders regarding gathering size limits are lifted.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools Executive Director of Secondary Education Tina Mashburn on Monday evening reported the preference of students not to call off the ceremonies entirely to the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education. The district already has promised in-person ceremonies, but they will not be able to so in Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan, and the district is not able to set a date because the size restrictions will be lifted is based on continued leveling or declining cases of COVID-19.

If there is a spike in cases there could be more restrictions put in place, and the district is preparing for the possibility of returning to school in the full just to close once again due to a resurgence of the disease.

So, schools will go ahead with virtual celebrations on May 22, the original graduation day, at the original times. Mashburn said each high school will be advertising their own celebrations, which may include a mixture of elements like award recognitions, depending on the school.

The board on Tuesday also agreed to allow district administration to enter contract negotiations with Kelly Education to take over managing the substitute teacher program.

The cost estimate of a fill rate of 85%, which is 10% higher than what the district does in-house, is about $2.1 million, and a few thousand dollars less expensive than if the district were to achieve that fill rate itself.

The board still has to approve a contract which will be brought back at a later meeting, but if it does partner with Kelly, it will grandfather in current substitutes, extend benefits to substitute teachers, remove the cap on hours for substitutes and provide professional development for them as well.

In other news from the meeting:

  • The district will extend its current meal deliveries into the summer rather than hold its normal summer meals program. The summer program involves congregate eating, which is not allowed under the current gathering restrictions. The district currently delivers breakfast and lunch three days a week to about 13,000 children.
  • Enochville and Koontz elementary schools both received approval on their renewal plans. They were the last two elementary schools with pending plans, and both schools had goals to improve student achievement and reduce student discipline. Both schools are using Capturing Kids’ Hearts, a social/emotional learning program which is used by a number of other schools in the district that helps faculty, staff and students form quality relationships.
  • The district is planning to stick to its original calendar and start next school year’s classes at the beginning of August, though Superintendent Lynn Moody noted the district will assess if it will be able to stick to its early start date down the line. Renewal gives RSS the freedom to set its calendar outside of the parameters the state sets for public school districts.

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