By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

As precautionary measures against the coronavirus spill over into the summer months, Whitewater Unified School District officials have opted to go virtual for two rituals that are synonymous with warm weather.

The Whitewater Unified School Board on May 4 voted unanimously in favor of holding a virtual high school graduation with the possibility of an in-person ceremony still on the table for late in the season. Officials also gave the green light to proceed with online summer school.

Both overtures, administrators said, ensure the district continues to offer programs, as scheduled, while maintaining Gov. Tony Evers’ most current Safer-at-Home orders, which have banned in-person activities at schools through June 30.

Whitewater High School will offer its graduation ceremony June 7, as previously scheduled. Administrators discussed the rationale behind keeping the original plans in place.

The recommendation presented to the School Board this month was not taken lightly, WHS Principal Mike Lovenberg said.

“This is, by far, one of the most difficult decisions we’ve had to make,” Lovenberg said. “I’m so, so proud of our kids.”

At a time when there are so many unknowns, and information and directives linked to the pandemic change swiftly, Interim District Administrator Jim Shaw said the virtual option gives families the opportunity to plan.

“(The unknowns) have really put tremendous stress on our families,” Shaw said. “Things seem to change from day to day.”

While postponing the recognition in the hopes of a solely traditional in-person ceremonial program also was considered, administrators said such a proposal would continue to keep all of the unknowns in the mix.

“It is too important to risk,” WHS Assistant Principal Nathan O’Shaughnessy said. “I think it’s very important we have the graduation — June 7th, as planned.”

On the prospect of holding off for an in-person ceremony late in the summer, O’Shaughnessy said, “We just don’t know. We don’t have a crystal ball.”

Other options also were explored for early June, including the possibility of a parade or giving students the opportunity to pick up their diplomas at the high school. But neither option has been deemed viable, according to administrators, based on information from the state Department of Public Instruction or local and state health officials.

“It really puts the focus on what we can do at this time, and it’s a virtual graduation,” Lovenberg said. “It’s trying to work with the unknowns.”

With the School Board’s approval in motion, Shaw said he and other administrators will move swiftly to assemble logistics. Even though this year’s official ceremony will take on a different format, Shaw used the word “quality” to describe its intended presentation.

With summer school set to begin June 22, O’Shaughnessy said rolling out the virtual method now is the desired method to combat the logistical unknowns beyond June 30.

Curriculum for middle and high school summer school classes “can be easily transferred” online, O’Shaughnessy said, while some of the elementary-level offerings might have to be tweaked.

“It’s been really hard to plan what’s a continuous and meaningful learning experience for our kids,” O’Shaughnessy said. “This is our first go-around, so we’ll do the best we can with it.”

 
 

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