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Lowe: Beaver grades should stand

CALCUTTA — Beaver Local students who make a “good faith effort” to keep up with their online studies for the rest of the school year will likely receive the same grade they had when Gov. Mike DeWine ordered schools closed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Superintendent Eric Lowe told the school board at this week’s meeting that academic performance under the unprecedented circumstances is not necessarily the “foremost element right now.”

He said they are instead focusing on meeting the “social and emotional” needs of students as they grapple with the disruption and adjustments that come with being forced to learn remotely from home since March 16.

“There’s a lot of things going on in the kids’ lives,” Lowe said, noting all students face different challenges personally and at home, including the financial impact of a parent losing their job due the government-ordered shutdown. “We’re trying to take that all into consideration.”

Students who are completing the assigned online work based on how they performed before the shutdown will receive a final grade based on the average they had at the time.

“We want the kids showing up and doing the work they are capable of doing,” Lowe said, adding teachers have discretion to grant a higher grade to students who were already on the line and have gone above what was expected of them.

He said those who are not doing their class work or watching online assignments “could be viewed differently” and receive a lower grade, depending on their circumstances.

All of this was already explained in an all-call automated phone message sent to parents and in s community letter Lowe posted on Beaver Local’s website.

Despite everything that has occurred, Lowe said the teachers and other staff have met the challenge of switching on the fly to all-remote instruction. Arrangements are made to get paper packets of school work to the small group of students who lack internet access

He also praised staff who continue to prepare and distribute five days’ worth of free breakfasts and lunches to an average of 700 district families once a week.

“We’ve definitely had people going above and beyond,” Lowe said.

Lowe told the board they are putting together a virtual graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 that will likely be broadcast on Beaver Local’s YouTube channel on May 29. It will includes photographs and video clips of students, recorded speeches and a commencement speech, all of which compiled into a video ceremony.

“We’re trying to provide something the families can celebrate,” he said.

Lowe is also hopeful to hold an actual graduation ceremony in either early August at the football stadium or at the school on Dec. 27, which would fall during Christmas break for 2020 graduates who went onto college.

The 2020 prom remains postponed, not canceled, because Lowe is hoping they still might be able to hold the event at the school in August “so the kids can have that experience.”

While most of the meeting focused the disruption caused by the school closure, the board did take care of routine business as they plan for the future. That included hiring Protech Electrical Contractors of St. Clair Township to replace all the lights with energy efficient LED lights.

The cost is $340,000, and the switch to LED lighting will reduce Beaver Local’s electrical bill an estimated $38,000 a year, which will be used to pay Protech, resulting in no out-of-pocket expenditure for the district. The contract requires the company to maintain and replace lights for 15 years, which is included in the fee.

The school district is already being charged a locked-in lower electric rate that saves Beaver Local $32,000 a year, and this deal with Protech would enable to them to continue receiving the reduced rate after it expires.

The board also extended the contract of elementary school principal Brianne Hall by three years that expires June 30, 2023. Her salary according to step pay schedule will go from $76,491 to $77,054 next year.

The board also agreed to purchase a new school bus for $91,000 through a school-bus purchasing program. A grant was received to cover about half the cost.

tgiambroni@mojonews.com

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