The COVID-19 pandemic has forced T.C. Williams High School to not have a traditional prom or graduation this year, and Alexandria City Public Schools are working on alternatives.
Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. and T.C. Principal Peter Balas broke the news to more than 700 graduating seniors last week that the ceremony at George Mason University’s Eagle Bank Arena on June 13 has been canceled.
“Graduation… is not going to happen as it traditionally does because of the large gatherings that graduation or a commencement ceremony requires,” Hutchins said in one of his daily videos. “But we are still working with our seniors and also with our staff members to develop an innovative approach to actually have some form of a commencement ceremony or graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 and we’re going to have more information for you all about that soon.”
The 2020 yearbooks are also nearly complete and will be sent to students.
T.C. senior Peter Moser told Theogony, the school newspaper, that while it’s disappointing to miss prom and graduation, “I would rather have my grandparents alive.”
“There’s a huge risk to having both of those events, so canceling them was the right choice,” Moser said. “Hopefully, we will still be able to have a graduation ceremony in the summer or something.”
Governor Ralph Northam on March 23 ordered all schools to be closed for the remainder of the year. Alexandria’s public schools were already shut down until the end of spring break, and ACPS staff are currently working on a continuity plan for the rest of the year.
“We’re working right now with the Virginia Department of Education,” Hutchings said. “They will be submitting a waiver to the U.S. Department of Education to waive some of the graduation requirements, so that we can ensure students are not penalized for the school closures that will occur for the remainder of this year.”
The state department of education is also submitting an application to the U.S. Department of Education to wave requirements for students who still need to take standards of learning exams or earn industry credentials.
“Once that application is approved, we will be able to still have our seniors, graduate with a standard or an advanced diploma from TC Williams,” Hutchings said.
T.C. will also not have its traditional National Decision Day, where seniors commit to colleges with letters of intent.
Balas sent a letter to students informing them of the decisions and said that advanced placement exams will still be taking place, but will be shorter and online. The exam schedule will be available on April 3 from the College Board.
“I know this is going to be hard on you,” Balas wrote. “These events are rites of passage as you complete your senior year at T.C. Although we know we won’t be able to recreate the experience in the traditional manners, I plan to work with my Titans to come up with alternatives. Our students have been sending me some great ideas about how we can still celebrate this time in your lives.”
Photo via ACPS/Facebook
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If you had a chance to enhance a child’s future with a time commitment of less than 2 hours a week, how would you respond? You have that opportunity right now to join over 200 Alexandrians as a reading tutor volunteer with the Alexandria Tutoring Consortium (ATC).
ATC tutors work with one child in kindergarten, first, or second grade in Alexandria public schools who need extra help with reading. Tutors meet with their Book Buddy 1-2 times each week for 30 minutes October-May at school, during school hours. Many struggling readers only receive one-on-one instruction through this program, and it makes all the difference. Last year, ATC served 195 children, of whom 82% ended the year reading on grade level and 96% made substantial reading gains. But the need is great, and we are still seeing learning lags from the pandemic.
This year, ATC plans to significantly increase the size of the program to reach over 250 students and to serve every elementary school in Alexandria. This is very exciting news, but we will only succeed if we can recruit more tutors. ATC trains you, matches you with a child, and provides ongoing lesson materials and support.
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