Dowagiac Union Schools approves graduation adjustments for 2020-21 academic year

DOWAGIAC — Dowagiac Union High School seniors eagerly awaiting graduation received some help from the board of education.

Monday night, the board approved a one-year adjustment to the district’s graduation requirements for the 2020-21 school year.

The adjustment involves allowing seniors to graduate even if they did not take the Michigan Merit Examination last spring. Students are required by the state to take the exam during the spring of junior year in order to graduate. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the postponement of spring 2020 testing, testing will not be required by the state for senior students in spring 2021.

“The graduation requirement is based on the state assessment requirements because last spring we weren’t able to give all of the juniors the MME and the SAT,” said superintendent Jonathan Whan. “The state has waived that requirement\, but it’s in our policy to require the tests. Right now, we’re not able to guarantee all students could have all that testing done before graduation, so we felt this adjustment was necessary.”

Whan said the adjustment ensures that seniors impacted by the pandemic are able to graduate on time.

“We’re not going to punish kids for something that they had no control over,” Whan said. “A lot of schools have the testing as a requirement for graduation, but we just want to stay on top of things. This was the right thing to do. It’s not like these students are resisting testing. This was a formality to protect the student’s graduation. We want to make sure that we are being transparent with the community.”

In other news, Whan announced that the district had its second wave of teachers receive their second COVID-19 vaccinations. According to Whan, 144 of the district’s 172 staff have received both rounds of COVID vaccinations, and the remaining 30 staff will have their second-round administered Saturday.

In other business:

  • Whan announced that the board’s “top 10” dinner with the 10 seniors with the highest GPA would take place next month, pending state guideline changes. Whan believes the district will be able to host a dinner this year with students, teachers and board members after having to cancel last year’s dinner due to the pandemic.
  • The board reconfirmed its COVID-19 plan, which must be reconfirmed every month.

“This is the monthly action the board of education is required to make as a part of the schooling fund that was passed this fall,” Whan said. “Each month, we will be bringing this to the board to recommit to the plan we set for the district.”

The district’s COVID-19 plan adheres to the guidelines listed in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap, which the district will continue to follow despite Whitmer’s executive orders being struck down by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Whan said the plan includes the district’s responses to different scenarios, including having to transition to brief periods of distance learning in the event of new positive COVID-19 cases in the district.

The reconfirmation of the plan, as well as changes to the plan, must be submitted to the Michigan Department of Education each month.

The COVID-19 plan in its entirety can be found on the district’s website.

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