COVID-19 closure potentially disrupts end-of-year schedule

March 15, 2020, 5:16 p.m. | By Shifra Dayak | 3 years, 2 months ago

The future of senior activities is unknown right now

The status of Blair seniors' end-of-year activities, including prom, the last day of school and graduation, is largely unknown because of the closure of all Maryland public schools for two weeks due to COVID-19. As of March 13, all three are scheduled to continue as intended, but developments in Montgomery County or state policy regarding the coronavirus could change the plans, Principal Renay Johnson said. 

The junior and senior prom is currently scheduled for Saturday, May 16. The senior class' graduation ceremony is scheduled to be held on Monday, June 1 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). 

As part of a series of actions to limit the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Larry Hogan announced on March 12 that mass gatherings of more than 250 people are banned statewide. If Maryland's state of emergency is not lifted by the end of the school year, prom and graduation will not proceed as planned. 

Plans for graduation also depend on the status of UMBC's campus. "We have a June 1 graduation. We've already contracted with the venue. UMBC closed, so if they don't reopen and they don't let us on campus, then [it will be canceled]," Johnson said. Although Blair has not developed a contingency plan in case of a cancellation, Johnson intends to hold the ceremony on an alternate date. "Every parent waits 13 years to see their youngster graduate, so ideally, we would do it in July if we needed to," she said. 

Right now, the seniors' last day of school, scheduled for May 22, is not projected to change regardless of the COVID-19 closure. In past years, despite many snow days, seniors have always ended school during the second-to-last week of May. "In my experience, the seniors' last day has never changed. One year, with Snowmageddon, we were out forever, and the seniors still got out on May 25," Johnson said, referring to the 2010 storm that forced Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to close schools for well over a week. 

Spring break is also scheduled to occur as planned. Although the state has recommended that public schools use the break to make up days from the two-week closure, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith has not made any plans to follow through with the suggestion. "According to MCPS, they have not, and at this time don't plan to, take away our spring break days," Johsnon said. "That's for a number of reasons, one of which is that a lot of parents are still traveling."

Johnson and other Blair administrators are continually looking to the county and state for developments. In the meantime, Johnson urged students to exercise precautionary behavior. "During this really scary time, just have some restraint," she said. 

UPDATE (3/16/20, 7:50 p.m.): In a press conference on March 16, Maryland State School Superintendent Karen Salmon announced that school closures may last beyond the initial two-week period, as per new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance. The CDC said a longer closure of eight to 20 weeks will have a higher impact on the effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19. Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, Maryland's primary teachers' union, said closing schools for the rest of the year is "on the table." “The most important thing right now is to follow the guidance of public health officials to limit and ultimately stop the spread of this virus,” she said. Right now, it is unclear how the potential for a longer closure will affect the year-end schedule at Blair and around MCPS.

This is a fluid story and updates will be added when available. 

Last updated: March 24, 2020, 8:25 p.m.

Tags: Prom Blair Graduation Seniors coronavirus

Shifra Dayak. Hi, I'm Shifra! If I'm not writing articles or doing homework, I'm probably making music, browsing through dog pictures, eating Thai food, or napping. More »

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