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What's the future for high school proms, sports and graduations?

Amanda Parrish * Delaware
aparrish@doverpost.com
Middletown Transcript

Prom, spring sports and graduation are a few of the milestones students might miss out on with schools closed until May 15. Appoquinimink School District officials want to make these special moments happen if at all possible.

At an online special meeting March 25, the Appoquinimink Board of Education discussed the question.

Superintendent Matt Burrows said there is a lot of uncertainty around end-of-year activities, such as prom, graduation, award ceremonies and sports because of the coronavirus.

“Our goal is to support as many of these social milestones as possible after the return to school,” he said. “We don’t have answers for those right now because we are trying to get remote learning off the ground.”

On March 23, Gov. John Carney closed schools until at least May 15 with no guarantee schools will reopen by the end of the academic year. Appoquinimink started remote learning March 30.

Carney said schools will not stay in session past June 30. If they reopen after May 15, the district would have less than six weeks to plan and hold these activities.

Board members Charlisa Edelin and Michelle Wall had concerns about Middletown and Appoquinimink high school graduations scheduled for June 7 at University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center.

Burrows said if the district allows an in-person graduation ceremony but UD officials say it can’t be held there, district officials would look at alternate locations.

“Ideally with everything being perfect, graduation happens on the [scheduled] date,” he said. “If we can’t socially gather, we would have to look at nontraditional graduations.”

Some colleges in the U.S. have canceled in-person graduation, opting to do a virtual ceremony.

Wall asked when spring sports would resume. Burrows said the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association is the primary decision-maker on sports. DIAA announced March 24 they are consulting with school districts.

“We want to provide opportunities for kids,” Burrows said. “[DIAA] has talked about shortened seasons.”

In the announcement, the DIAA said spring sports are suspended while public schools remain closed and the State of Emergency is in effect. Over the next few weeks, the board of directors will discuss the possibility for spring sports once schools reopen.

“DIAA leaders understand this is a disappointing, frustrating and stressful time for all involved,” Donna Polk, DIAA executive director, said in the announcement. “We will get through this together, and one day when the time is right, we will play again.”

Board president Richard Forsten said he knows these extracurriculars are important, but the focus needs to be on remote learning.

“For the next week or two, I think our primary focus needs to be on education and online learning, and the distance learning and getting that up and running,” Forsten said. “I have a feeling that sports seasons, graduation dates, prom, return to classes, those things will start to sort themselves out later.”