Tentative graduation plans OK’d

by Aly De Angelus
Staff Writer | May 14, 2020 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Lake Pend Oreille School District’s May 12 meeting led with a lengthy discussion on tentative plans for the three high school graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020.

The first slotted graduation is for Clark Fork High School, where approximately 20 seniors will be in attendance for a June 3 outdoor graduation ceremony that will accommodate social distancing protocol.

“I am working on all of the details with Phil (Kemink) but the exciting news is we did get that approved from Panhandle Health (District),” Lake Pend Oreille School District Superintendent Tom Albertson said.

At Lake Pend Oreille’s May 6 school board meeting Albertson said Panhandle Health District denied their recent graduation proposals due to health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then Panhandle Health District has been working closely with the LPOSD to provide feedback on their plans. The current plan is for the Clark Fork High School seniors to be on a stage in front of the school and family and friends will stay inside their cars at the school parking lot.

Sandpoint High School also plans to keep their original graduate date, June 5, and have a similar graduation set-up to Clark Fork High School with an outdoor ceremony that will stage the seniors and separate friends and family in the parking lot. In addition, SHS is making arrangements to have a projector and broadcast the ceremony on FM radio as well as live stream on the internet. With over 230 Sandpoint High School seniors, family and students will be instructed to stay in cars. Students will walk across the stage when their row is called upon to keep the stage under 50 people at all times. Both Sandpoint and Clark Fork high school graduations fall in phase three of Idaho’s reopening plan, which allows for gatherings of 10 to 50 people.

Lake Pend Oreille Alternative High School moved their graduation date from June 4 to June 15, which now falls under phase four of the state’s reopening. Phase four allows for gatherings over 50 people and Lake Pend Oreille Alternative High School plans to hold about 80-100 people at the Sandpoint Event Center for an indoor ceremony. There are roughly 20 graduates and the center can hold up to 400 people. However, the school plans to implement CDC’s recommended social distancing protocol. Masks will be used during the graduation and guests will be limited.

Though Sandpoint High School considered postponing their graduation to accommodate more attendees in the phase four approach, Albertson said the SHS graduation usually pulls close to 2,500 attendees and it is unclear what the maximum gathering is for the phase four approach.

“We know that these graduation plans are going to look different, but I am glad that the plans are coming together,” Albertson said. “Those are the three plans, which I feel fairly solid about. The good news is we have a plan to celebrate the hard work of 12 years or 13 years of education of these graduates.”

Albertson said the principals will be alerting students and parents on details such as dress code, attendance of board members and more.

Sandpoint High School Principal David Miles also released an end-of-the-year notice on May 13 that detailed grading for the spring semester. Students will be receiving a pass/fail grade or an incomplete to be finished their coursework by January 2021. If students would like to request a grade, they must contact their individual teachers by June 5.

Miles said school yearbooks will be arriving in early July. The last day for seniors is May 27 and May 28 and May 29 are Senior Celebration Days, where seniors can pick up graduation gear and take pictures with decorations at the school.

Albertson said seniors are not the only students celebrating landmark education celebrations. LPOSD is also working to celebrate kindergarten and sixth grade classes as they transition to elementary and high school.

“The promotion from kindergarten to first grade is always a big deal and the same way as leaving sixth grade,” Albertson said. He said teachers are working on having students submit pictures and audio as a keepsake they’ll enjoy looking back on when they get older.

In addition, middle school teachers and students are working to create a virtual tour of their building to welcome in new students and alleviate some fear.

It’s a big transition in a normal year and it may even be a bigger transition,” Albertson said, alluding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am disappointed because this is my last sixth grade class,” said Board Member Purlay Decker. I won’t get my hugs.”

During the second half of the meeting board members unanimously approved the 2020-2021 negotiation agreement with teachers. Albertson attended the teachers negotiations meeting on April 30 and Board Chair Cary Kelly and Vice Chair Geraldine Lewis were representatives for the LPOSD board. Two new articles that were introduced were the use of surveillance equipment and furlough days.

The first article prohibits live footage from security cameras in classrooms being used as an evaluation tool for teaching instruction, nor will it be available for public review. Recorded footage may only be accessed when there is a situation that warrants review.

The second new article on furlough days determined that furlough days will be implemented if “other budgetary options are determined not to be viable to prevent a drop below a 9.5% general fund balance during the fiscal year after subtracting the agreed upon carryover for fiscal year 2022” or “the reduction in funding is a result of a significant drop in enrollment (in excess of three units),” according to the 2020-2021 Notice of Negotiations.

“We did not have any language on furlough days and that language is now in the negotiated agreement and that is something that is jointly agreed upon between the teachers and the school board. We are hoping that we do not need to exercise that language but I really appreciate Brian (Smith of Lake Pend Oreille Education Association)’s work and the whole collaboration for whatever is coming in the Fall, we feel very prepared for that.”

LPOEA President Brian Smith said his association had their ratification meeting on May 12 and it was approved with 100 percent of those voting as well.

“I just wanted to thank the board,” Smith said. “I just feel like we work so much like a team all year long and I greatly appreciate everybody at the district office and the board for the work that they do and the collaboration that we have.”

Aly De Angelus can be reached by email at adeangelus@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @AlyDailyBee.