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Demise of semester brings ripple effect to CUSD

by Steven Felschundneff steven@claremont-courier.com

Claremont public school students will not be returning to in-person classes for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year following actions last week from the governor on down to our local superintendent.

In a letter to “parents, guardians and students” sent on April 1, Claremont Unified School District Superintendent Jim Elsasser expressed his regret in making the difficult decision to extend the school closures, but believes it is the correct decision to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Today, following Governor Gavin Newsom’s press release, the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo announced she has extended her recommendation to close all schools in Los Angeles County for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year to limit the community spread of COVID-19. CUSD will follow this recommendation; therefore, as of this time, students and staff will not return to school this year but will continue to engage in distance learning for the remainder of the academic year,” the letter read.

The actions taken by Governor Newsom and Ms. Durado were preceded by a letter sent by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to all county superintendents last Tuesday in which he expressed doubt that in-class instruction could continue.

“Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing, it currently appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year,” Mr. Thurmond stated in the letter.

The termination of the spring semester has resulted in the cancellation of other school related events and the rescheduling of important rites of passage including graduation, the prom and grad night.

The principals of Claremont High School, San Antonio High School and Claremont Adult School, sent a letter to students, parents, guardians and caregivers, Friday announcing that graduation for the class of 2020 will be postponed to Thursday July 30. Because July is one of the hottest months in Claremont, commencement will begin at 7 p.m. at the CHS track. Grad night will follow later that evening, but details have not been worked out. The prom has tentatively been scheduled for Saturday, July 25. However, the annual CHS theater production at Bridges Auditorium will be cancelled because Pomona College is closed.

“The CUSD School Board, Dr. Elsasser and the CHS Staff strongly believe a graduation ceremony for CUSD Adult School, CHS and San Antonio HS should still be held to honor the accomplishments of the Class of 2020,” the statement read. But the principals left open the possibility that even late July could still be too soon for large gatherings. “That date is assuming the ‘social distancing guidelines’ the governor has issued have been terminated.”

CHS Principal Brett O’Connor said that after speaking with students and parents, the July date was chosen to maximize the possibility that social distancing guidelines will have been lifted by state and county officials. It’s also just before many graduates will be leaving for their freshman year in college.

In a news release on Friday, commissioner of athletics for the California Interscholastic Federation’s Southern Section, Rob Wigod, announced the cancellation of all spring sports and competitions.

“Today, the CIF State Office, in coordination with the 10 CIF Sections around the state, made the incredibly difficult decision to cancel the spring sports championships at the state and section levels. In arriving at this decision, I know that my colleagues and I thought about our student-athletes first...The health and safety of our student-athletes is always our highest priority, and it is with that in mind that we did what we believed we had to do, not only for them, but for all our stakeholders,” the statement read.

The announcement was not a surprise, because even if students returned to school on April 13, as was originally planned, it was going to be extremely difficult to reschedule most of an entire season into the two remaining weeks before championships were set to begin.

Registration is continuing on its normal schedule at Claremont High including for incoming students from El Roble. Summer school will continue with classes coordinated online through Citrus College.

Teachers are working from home and connecting remotely with students. According to Mr. O’Connor, they have had pretty good student engagement, but he did not have any hard numbers and the teachers are not taking attendance. CHS administrators are on campus during the week to distribute computer tablets to any student who needs one, although most were already given out when in-person instruction ended on March 13.

Measure G funded school facility improvement projects continue at CHS and other campuses, as construction jobs are deemed essential by the state order. The pool and girls locker room projects at the high school are on schedule to be completed by the end of summer, while the student center has experienced some delays due to shortages of materials and will likely not be finished until December.

Of course, high school seniors are not the only students who will miss out on cherished events due to the closure. The Vista Track Meet, which brings all the elementary schools together for fun competition, will have to be skipped this year. El Roble students will miss the bike marathon and end of the year award ceremonies, not to mention after school dances and career day. There will be no father daughter dance, after school enrichment classes or promotion ceremonies. Sycamore sixth graders won’t get to enjoy their pool party. And, of course, senior day when the soon-to-be graduates visit their former elementary schools has also been scrapped.

It’s a lot of disappointing news for the students, but one day this will be over and the fall semester is just a few months away.

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