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Despite making the decision to extend the school calendar to Monday, June 4, to make up a day missed due to snow, the district has now decided to keep the June 2 graduation…sort of.
In an announcement Tuesday morning, the district said it will have commencement ceremonies for both Shelby County and Collins high schools on Saturday, June 2.
"Even though the decision was made to have June 4 the last day for students, there is a regulation that allows a commencement ceremony to occur prior to that, without the actual diploma being presented," said Duanne Puckett, public relations coordinator for the district. "We are going with that option, making June 2 the date for the programs at both MLCHS and SCHS."
Puckett said the state regulations have always been clear that no graduation can be held before the last day of school. However, the district has asked for and received permission from the Department of Education to have commencement ceremonies. Because of this, the events will be called commencement ceremonies, since diplomas cannot be given out.
The ceremony also won’t get students off the hook for classes on June 4.
"Seniors can job-shadow that day or attend classes," Puckett said. "Any senior who does not report to school June 4 will be required to make up that day in the summer before receiving their diploma."
Students that don’t must schedule a make up day with their principal before they can receive their diploma.
The district started looking into this request after a student presented the board with several reasons they should not add the day to the end of the calendar during the March 22 school board meeting.
At that point, the board asked the administration to gather more information from parents on whether or not they would prefer extending the calendar to Monday, June 4, or going to school on Saturday, April 28.
In a special called meeting Monday morning, the Shelby County School Board voted to go with the public sentiment, moving the last day of school to June 4.
The district’s one-call survey received about 4,000 votes from the families of more than 6,500 students in the district, and about 55 percent of the voters chose June 4 over April 28, a Saturday.
"Is it fair to say, based on the voting, that more people would be inconvenienced by changing it [to Saturday]?" board member Sam Hinkle asked.
"Yes, the vote supported our original recommendation," Superintendent James Neihof said.
That discussion led to the board’s unanimous vote to move the students' last day of school. Teachers will have a closing day on June 5.
After Monday’s meeting, it appeared that graduation would be moved to June 9, but this compromise should please those that didn’t want it changed because plans had already been made.
There has also been quite a bit of confusion among parents and students about the reasons that the district must add the day to make up for the snow day on March 5.
Several parents have posted on The Sentinel-News’Facebook page that the district has plenty of time built up to avoid adding a day – either because of hours spent in school or built in snow days – and that the district is only adding the day because of budgetary reasons.
Both assumptions, however, are untrue.
There are no snow days built into the calendar, and the length of the school year, 175 days, is mandated by the Kentucky Department of Education.
Neihof said in some past years, if districts have missed several days, the commissioner of education has allowed those with more than the required hours of instruction to trim days from the end of the calendar.
Shelby County, along with many other districts, was allowed to do that last year, taking two days off the end of the school year while still making up five others.
However, after the recent very mild winter, the commissioner will not allow that option this year, mandating that all districts maintain the full, 175-day calendar.
That left the district with the option of extending the calendar on extra day, going to school on Saturday or taking a day from spring break.
Election Day, May 22, was another often-suggested idea for an extra day, but if a school is used as a polling place, state law dictates that it cannot be open.
Out of Shelby County's nine schools, four – Simpsonville and Clear Creek elementary schools, West Middle and Shelby County High School – will be used this year as polling places.
The district also is not allowed to have school on Memorial Day, May 28, because it is a federal holiday. Memorial Day, along with spring break and Election Day, are the only weekdays in the remaining school calendar that were not being used for instruction.
The budget concerns, Neihof said, are unfounded because the total amount the district receives from the state is set. If the calendar were to be increased or decreased, it would still be the same total amount of money divided by that number of days.
Other parents expressed concern that students would not receive instruction on that final day, as was Hinkle.
During a meeting on March 22, when the item was tabled by the board to wait for more information, Hinkle had asked about that topic. Neihof reminded him that at the high school level, the last days are for end-of-year exams and that instruction should be included down to the elementary school level. He said that seniors probably would be finished.
"Could we make this Monday a service day for seniors, possibly finding a project that they can work on so it's not a wasted day?" Hinkle asked at Monday morning's meeting.
Neihof said administrators could look into that idea.