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Schools Considering Graduation Options
Signs of support for the Class of 2020 at Escalon High School have popped up around the community, some just general and some recognizing individual students by name. Similar signs congratulate the eighth graders from El Portal. Marg Jackson/The Times

It’s something they would like to see happen, sometime, somehow. They’re just not sure when or where.

Escalon Unified School District officials would like nothing more than to give the Class of 2020 at Escalon and Vista high schools a celebratory send off and they would like to see the eighth graders at El Portal have a promotion ceremony.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s anybody’s guess how that can be accomplished.

Meanwhile, the district is continuing with its Distance Learning protocol through the end of this school year.

“Distance Learning is a lot more difficult than face to face, teachers are putting in a lot of time to get it to work,” explained District Superintendent Ron Costa.

He said it is working; it’s just harder to connect with the students online than in the classroom.

“Our administrators follow up if students are not participating,” he added.

Also, the district has been using four mobile hot spots, driving around so students who don’t have the option of connectivity in their home can utilize the hot spot for classes.

“They download assignments from the teacher, upload completed assignments, that has worked well,” Costa said.

The school lunches have continued to be served, with sites at Farmington and Dent Elementary schools used for the once a week distribution. Each bag given to a student contains five school lunches. Parents drive their students to the site closest to them to pick up the meals.

“As of this week, they had done almost 16,000 lunches,” Costa said of the distribution.

As far as graduations and promotion, Costa said he was in touch recently with the San Joaquin County Health Department regarding that possibility.

“We’re under the guidelines of the county health officer and the guideline now is no gatherings,” Costa explained. “I did talk to her and asked if we could start planning for a ceremony in June or would it be safer in July and she said July.”

Costa will be meeting this week with Eric Simoni from Escalon High School and Mark Vos from El Portal to see if they can put together a contingency plan for high school and middle school ceremonies.

“Everyone would like some type of a traditional ceremony and we want to work toward something, we just don’t know what it’s going to look like,” admitted Costa. “It’s hard to develop a plan when you’ve got a moving target.”

The superintendent is, however, buoyed by the fact that the district is seeing upwards of 80 percent of their students involved in the distance learning.

“That number increases all the time, as more and more kids get connected,” he said. “Students are home, doing their schoolwork.”

He also has to look ahead to the 2020-21 school year and what that will look like, something he is discussing with all district principals – Simoni and Vos, along with Vista’s Gus Arzac, Gateway Academy’s Joel Johannsen, Anthony Varni at Dent, George Megenney at Farmington and Collegeville and Julio Zambrano at Van Allen.

The school board also has had two online meetings, on Zoom, and Costa said those have gone well, with virtual attendees at each meeting along with the board members and administration.

The signs say it all outside El Portal Middle School, as students close out the year through distance learning. Marg Jackson/The Times