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SW Sets Graduation Plans As More Students Return

Southwestern Elementary School Principal Matt Langworthy is pictured greeting students as they come off the bus. The district is welcoming more students back to the classrooms. Photo by Shelly Phillips

The Southwestern Central School District will be holding graduation and prom this year, traditional events that had to be altered for many districts last year due to the pandemic.

Graduation is slated for Friday, June 25, at the athletic complex.

“We’re going to keep that date, rain or shine,” Superintendent Maureen Donahue said. “If we have to, we’ll move inside. Our goal is to start on the turf, hoping for great weather.”

The district is looking at guidelines for testing and vaccination requirements for attendance at graduation.

Prom will be held Saturday, June 12, in the Southwestern bus garage.

“We are ready to go with a prom, we are pretty excited,” Donahue said. “We all want it to turn out really nice for the kids. Buildings and grounds are chipping in and the bus drivers want to paint the bus garage.”

She stressed that leadership is what has allowed the district to function at a high level throughout the pandemic. That leadership is also what has allowed the district to hold prom and graduation this year.

“You have to build relationships in your school, and you need long-term leadership,” she said. “We also have leadership amongst our district that aren’t principals — our department chairs, our team leaders and our grade level (leadership).”

The district goals for the 2021-22 school year a involve an increase in academic achievement, the concentration on the social and emotional well-being of all students, a response to intervention and the importance of financial stability.

After a year of pandemic-induced hybrid and remote learning, the Southwestern Central School District has initiated a plan to bring more students back into the classroom.

The plan, which has been in the works since early April, differs between the elementary school and the middle and high schools.

“Prior to our spring break, we had met to bring back our elementary full-time,” Donahue said. “We had steps in process the week we came back.”

Monday, April 12, was a staff development and preparation day; a portion of the students came back Tuesday, April 13; and Wednesday, April 14, saw the reintroduction of all elementary students, she said. Pre-K through fifth grade is now back full-time, with the exception of full-time remote students.

“They signed up to be virtual full-time at the beginning of the year,” Donahue said. “They’d never even come in on our hybrid day. Some of those kids have come back (in-person) full-time because they’ve chosen to, and we’ve given them that option.”

However, middle and high schools have different guidelines which results in a different reopening plan for those students. “Middle and high school is a little bit more challenging because of the regulations,” Donahue said.

Those regulations include 6-feet social distancing in the cafeteria, and the main issue with a full reopening is the space limitations within the school.

“We do have kids back on a hybrid,” she said, “but we have four tracks for students.”

Parents, students and staff have overall been in support of the plan, which Donahue said is still not perfect, since a perfect plan would have every student back in school full-time.

“The plan is not perfect but we all are doing the best we can in difficult circumstances,” she said. “Parents and students have been supportive.”

In other district business:

¯ three candidates, Edward Brooks, James Butler and Lisa Yaggie, are running for re-election to the Southwestern School Board. The election will take place Tuesday, May 18, from 7 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 8 p.m. in the Southwestern High School multi-purpose room.

¯ the board approved the appointment of Mary Zdrojewski to a tenured position of library media specialist.

¯ the board approved the appointment of Chris Mitchell to assistant wrestling coach.

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