A public hearing was held on Feb. 6 about the date for senior graduation at Galion High School. About 15 people were in the audience, made up of parents, students and staff, to give their input to the Galion Board of Education.
Graduation is currently set for Friday, May 30. The district has been considering moving the date back, in order to allow seniors to make up school days before receiving their diplomas — a decision that will affect about 150 senior students and their families.
“After we hand a diploma to somebody on Friday, encouraging them to come back is probably going to be a challenge,” Superintendent Mark Stefanik stated.
As of that day, the school has used 13 Calamity Days due to the weather. The state only allows a maximum of five Calamity Days before a school district must start making up days. Galion has used one Blizzard Bag so far, which will help reduce any further Calamity Days from being counted against it. Also, last month the Board revised the district calendar to add two school days (President’s Day and the Monday of Easter break).
As it stands now, K-11 students will need to make up five school days and seniors will need to make up two. If there are more than five school closings during the remainder of the year there will be more days to make up, even with using Blizzard Bags.
However, the state is debating on increasing the number of allowable Calamity Days; the number could be increased by three or four days. Should the calamity days be increased by four, seniors would not have any make up days and the other students would only have one, unless there are five or more Calamity Days issued in the coming months.
The district is waiting to see what the state decides. In the meantime, Stefanik said it is a matter of “rolling the dice with Mother Nature” or being cautious and moving back the date for graduation.
An audience member asked about extending the length of the school day or using Saturday schools.
Stefanik explained they can extend the school day but only by 30 minutes, so it would take a long time to make up the lost days. Saturdays are not a possibility for this school year because they were not approved in the Contingency Plan (which cannot be altered during the school year). The Board can only add school days on Monday through Friday, and the school year can only be extended by up to five days past the last day of school.
Another audience member asked the Board to consider keeping the graduation date the same but not give the seniors their diplomas until after all days are made up. Board member Jennifer Kuns said she liked the idea but she was concerned some seniors would not attend the ceremony if they knew they would not receive a diploma. Many parents in the audience were adamant that their students would attend.
“This is when we all need to think outside the box,” audience member Scott Carpenter stated. “There’s gotta be a way that we can hold that graduation date.”
Dr. Sandy Powell, director of curriculum, noted that attendance can make or break the grade on the District Report Card. If the entire senior class did not show up for make up days, it could drastically impact the district’s score. High School Principal Ron Williams added that last year’s graduation rate was 89.1 percent, and they are focused on increasing it this year.
Many audience members agreed it was too short of notice to move the date, pointing out that people have already been planning and making arrangements, requesting off work and family members from out of town may have already bought plane tickets.
Some students also voiced their opinions. One said: “Walking across a stage won’t get you anywhere in life. A diploma will.” Another student guaranteed that if a senior wants a diploma, he or she would attend the make up days, even if they happen to be after graduation day.
After about 40 minutes of discussion, the Board took no action to change the date. “It stays the same,” Stefanik announced.
Afterward audience members voiced many thank yous to the Board. Also, Stefanik thanked the Galion Education Association and OPSE for approving MOU’s for the revised calendar. “That was a true sign of cooperation,” he commented.
Whether or not the Board approves additional make up days depends on what the state decides to do about increasing Calamity Days. Stefanik said he has heard a vote in the State House of Representatives could be coming on Feb. 11, but there is no clear timeline on when the state will make a final ruling.