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‘Special moment’ graduation plans coming, Columbus superintendent says


     High school seniors in Columbus County can look forward something special during commencement season, with planning underway for what promises to be a very different 2020 commencement, Supt. Dr. Deanna Meadows said in a letter to “parents, staff and stakeholders” released Friday.

     Meadows reflected the uncertainty that has come with the global COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted Gov. Roy Cooper to close public school buildings to close last month. That closing was set to expire on May 15, but Gov. Cooper on Friday extended through the end of the current academic year.

     “The last few weeks have been a challenge unlike any other in the recent history of education,” Dr. Meadows wrote. “The many unknowns that we all face have created anxiety and frustration.

     “Out of these difficulties, though, I have seen many positives. I am very proud of how our teachers and staff have adapted to online learning and are tirelessly working to provide valuable experiences that will keep students engaged. I have also seen parents, grandparents, church members, neighbors and many others pitching in to help students in a variety of ways.”

     Graduation has been of special concern to the Class of 2020 and their families, and Meadows said she has received “many questions” on commencement plans.

     “I wish I could tell you that we would be able to have a traditional ceremony as in the past,” Dr. Meadows said. “I know how important this is to seniors and their families. We are prepared to have a celebration that will give each graduate a special moment.

     “We will keep you informed as plans progress.”

     Details on just how the end of the current school year will go remain unclear “because they are determined at the state level and out of our control,” Dr. Meadows wrote. “Many of our future plans are based on the ability to reconvene large groups, so all plans are subject to change. It is important to monitor the situation.

     Meadows letter covered other “items of importance,” including:

  • Reopening schools – Parents will need to go online to take care of routine matters in preparation for the 2020-2021 school year, including Pre-K and Kindergarten registration and transportation forms for students planning to ride the bus next school year. Details can be found on the school district website and Facebook page. Kindergarten and Pre-K registration is already underway, the forms available at
  • Grades – Parents and guardians of students having difficulty with computer or Internet access should contact the appropriate teachers quickly Others with access may monitor their grades in google Classroom.

     Grading for the current school year will be different, with guidance at the state level informing planning for the Columbus County Schools, Meadows said.

     “Grades are secondary to ensuring that your child does not fall behind,” Dr. Meadows said. “Our initial goal when we return will be to assess all students during the first days of school, and those students will be grouped according to their preparation for the next level.

     “Please keep this in mind as you encourage your child to do their very best. If they don’t learn the material now, they will be behind.”

  • Meals – Current breakfast and lunch feeding continues through May 22, and will transition to a summer meal program.
  • Athletics – Students who plan to play sports during the next school year will not have to have new physicals if they had one during the current school year.

     Additional updates will be coming, Meadows said, over the next few weeks to give you important details as new decisions and information are determined. Thank you again for your support and patience during this trying time.

     “Our parents, students and teachers are proving once again how important education is to people of our county.”