By Debra Moore
It’s the last day of school for Plumas County students — though they haven’t been in a classroom since mid-March due to the coronavirus. Instead, students completed their studies with take-home packets and online learning. (This applies to Plumas Unified School District students — Plumas Charter School students are receiving instruction for another week.)
Though all end-of-the-year field trips and special events had to be canceled, there are still plans to hold sixth-grade promotions and high school graduation ceremonies in some form.
Plumas Unified School District Superintendent Terry Oestreich said that she and other school leaders would be meeting with Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff and Environmental Health Director Jerry Sipe on June 1 to discuss options.
“Parents are getting anxious,” Oestreich said. Various plans are being considered — everything from a drive-up ceremony with graduates in cars to a “normal” graduation ceremony with social distancing measures.
While the district will work with county officials on what is possible, each school will develop an individual plan, as has been the case with the sixth-grade promotion ceremonies.
Quincy Elementary School already held its event, across a three-day span, with graduates and their families appearing every 30 minutes to receive their certificates and congratulations and pose for pictures. The other three elementary schools — Chester, Greenville and C. Roy Carmichael in Portola — are all planning events for Thursday, June 11, and thus far range from a Facebook live event to a drive-up ceremony.
The four high schools are set to graduate Friday, June 12, with details to be announced as they become available. “We will have plans in place, but we might not even know until the day before what can actually happen,” Oestreich said.
And that pretty much sums up what school officials are facing — a time of uncertainty. Even though students are out of class, teachers and administrators will spend the next two weeks discussing what the next school year will look like as students return. A special board meeting is scheduled for this Wednesday, June 3, at 5:30 p.m., and committees (budget, student services, return to school and learning reimagined) have been convening weekly to discuss various aspects of reopening. Those meetings are expected to conclude June 15 and the results discussed at the June 17 board meeting.
As the summer progresses, Oestreich plans to gather parental input. Already she is hearing mixed messages from parents on the prospect of students wearing face masks — with some saying it’s a must for their children to return to school, while others won’t send their children to school if they are required. Public health officials will be providing guidance on that and other safety measures as they work with the school district to develop plans for a return to onsite learning. While that is occurring, the district must simultaneously work on a plan for distance learning, as well as some combination of the two.
“We are far from Aug. 24 at this point,” Oestreich said, “and a lot could change.”
In a message posted on the school district website, Oestreich wrote: “What our return to school looks like is still unknown, but we are committed to planning for options for students to have an excellent educational experience, although that will most likely look different than it has in the past.”
She encouraged parents to contact their site principals with ideas, and she committed to keeping students and their families updated throughout the summer.
“To all parents, teachers, staff, community members, and our partners in education — thank you for all that you have done during this time to care for our students, both academically and socially/emotionally,” Oestreich summed up. “The strength of our communities is reflected in our schools and you are the foundation of the educational experience. Thank you.”