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Graduation and a Safe Return To School

BULLETIN: In an email sent to members of the JDHS Class of 2020 Tuesday, Principal Greer Smith announced that the graduation ceremonies will be postponed until July 17 IF Gov. Brian Kemp lifts his executive order which is tentatively set to expire July 12.


The graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 and preparations for a safe return to school for the 2020-2021 school year were two of the major topics at Monday night’s meeting of the Jeff Davis County Board of Education.
Rory Chaney, the mother of a 2020 graduate, made an impassioned plea to the Board for parents, graduates and school officials to work together to give the graduating class the honor and recognition they deserve.
Adhering to social distancing guidelines handed down by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp prevented traditional style graduation ceremonies being held at any high school in the state. Originally, local school officials set a June 19 date for a traditional graduation ceremony to be held, which was beyond the date the social distancing guidelines were to end. But Gov. Kemp extended the time period for the guidelines into July.
So school officials conducted an online vote for 2020 seniors to express whether they wanted a traditional ceremony with limited attendance — each graduate would be given four tickets for family members to attend — or a drive-through ceremony with graduates driving through to be awarded their diplomas with guests in their vehicles.
With 112 of the 190 graduates submitting votes, the drive-through got a narrow approval by a 57-55 vote.
Chaney gave the board several alternative suggestions for more appropriate ceremonies that would better honor the graduates and, due to the 5-minute time limit on addressing the board, she passed out written information to the board members to explain in more detail the proposals she and other parents had developed.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: See inside for Rory Chaney’s complete presentation and a presentation parent Zack Marchant had prepared but was unable to present at the meeting.]
Board Chairman Roger Ogilvie responded to Chaney’s presentation by saying the Board couldn’t make a decision that night and added that he realized the graduates had been robbed of the opportunity to experience a graduation as had the board, parents and families.
He said the board’s hands were tied but he promised board members would look at the proposals Chaney presented to them.
Monday’s meeting was held without the presence of School Superintendent Chris Roppe but Roppe was on speaker phone during the meeting and was able to participate.
Roppe explained that school officials have talked with Ecovasive Company that is sanitizing schools across the state. In an effort to do “everything we can to make our schools safe,” Roppe explained that the company had come up with a plan to spray all the schools four times a year and school buses three times a year. Each spraying, he said, would last 90 days.
Assistant Superintendent Chuck Crosby was at the meeting and explained the plan in more detail, saying the cost would be $23,000 per year. Roppe said the price was determined on a square foot basis.
The board approved the proposal.
Adam Kirby, the newly selected primary school principal to replace retiring principal Ginger White, was at Monday’s meeting as was new primary assistant principal Garrett White. Kirby comes to Jeff Davis from Tattnall County and White comes from Atkinson County.
Monday’s meeting was held in the high school auditorium with board members spread out across the stage and audience members observing social distancing guidelines. Walking through the halls to get to the auditorium, visitors got a first hand look at renovations underway at the school.
Curt Eckman of Parrish Construction Group told the board they were in the process of putting back together the ceilings after installing new lights. He said everything was on schedule, gave an update on the work done so far and a timetable for the future work. The tennis court work is proceeding on schedule, with the existing courts raised six inches and courts on the new site being compacted.
In other action the board ….
…. approved a revised school calendar for the 2020-2021 school year.
…. accepted the resignations of Zach White, Beth Haynes, Joyce Branch and Sandra Carver, and the retirement of Carol Morris.
…. approved hiring English Language Arts (ELA) teacher Rhonda Johnson, part-time ELA and social studies teacher Michelle Humphrey at the high school, part-time high school social studies teacher John Walker, part-time high school social studies teacher Bill Pitt and school psychologist Kay Hudgens.
…. approved School Nutrition Program (SNP) staffing changes. Miranda Rowland as manager in training at Pre-K, Cathy Tanner as manager at the primary school, SNP assistant Terry Morris moving to the high school and Cindy Fleming as assistant manager in training at the elementary school.

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