By Terry Miller
MUSD appeals county’s decision to NOT allow graduation plan
Monrovia High Principal Kirk McGinnis recently published a YouTube video announcing plans for the official 2020 graduation and how grads would receive their diplomas during this pandemic.
In the course of the video, McGinnis, sitting at an empty campus, detailed the school’s innovative plans while attempting to adhere to state and local health and safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During difficult times, occasionally come ingenious albeit ambitious ideas. Enter Monrovia High School’s 360 Plan to essentially have a drive-up graduation where students can pick up their diploma, shoot a picture, and then dash back to the car to let the next graduate in line receive their diploma, and so on.
To do this, the city, police department and the school district went through countless scenarios and ultimately came up with what they believe is a workable plan to keep everyone safe while receiving their diplomas in extremely unprecedented times.
Initially, the plan was for 2020 graduates to be honored by the sports stadium lights shining each Wednesday at 8:20 p.m. for 20 minutes and then, with a little luck, receive their diplomas on June 3 during a drive-thru event that had been carefully planned to meet county COVID-19 conditions.
However, on Friday, a joint statement was issued by Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer and Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Debra Duardo on in-person graduation ceremonies, creating a problem for Monrovia’s plans.
“The health and safety of our County’s students, staff and families are top priorities for all of us.
“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Officer’s Safer at Home Order prohibits all public and private gatherings. The Order does not allow any exemptions for graduation gatherings of any type in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. This means all in-person graduation ceremonies, including use of cars for drive-in graduations (even if one student at a time), are considered public gatherings and are therefore prohibited. Virtual ceremonies are permitted and encouraged as a means of commemorating this important life event for young people and their families.
“We fully appreciate how disappointing it is for all our graduates to be denied the recognition they deserve for their academic achievement. It is unfortunate that such an important rite of passage has to take place virtually during this pandemic, and we deeply regret the heartache this may cause our students and their families.
“The Los Angeles County Office of Education does not have the authority to direct how a district or school will handle its graduation ceremonies. These are local decisions that will need to be made in compliance with the Safer at Home order.
“We are confident the education community will find creative ways to virtually celebrate the Class of 2020 while protecting everyone’s health and safety.”
Monrovia Weekly reached out Monday to McGinnis. “Obviously we are upset that the public health department, Friday, issued the prohibition of our planned graduation on June 3. We are meeting with the school board and superintendent of schools this afternoon to address concerns and hopefully a solution to this.”
Right now, the graduation plan is at an appeals process with the county, according to McGinnis.
School Board President Rob Hammond told Monrovia Weekly Monday that the district, in consort with all other agencies in the city of Monrovia, met and exceeded the county health department’s recommendations for a safe graduation.
Hammond has reached out to Supervisor Kathryn Barger explaining the dilemma the district is faced with. Hammond said there is nothing more important than the safety of the students during this pandemic and will abide by the rules and regulations but feels there needs to be a full explanation and reason behind the county’s decision not to allow the plan to go ahead.
“We have a right and a responsibility to question authority… this is a civics lesson,” Hammond told Monrovia Weekly in a telephone interview. Hammond believes the county has “overreached” in this matter and firmly believes that the district has done everything with its power to follow county health and safety guidelines.
“I’m cautiously optimistic. We have appealed to Supervisor Kathryn Barger for a full explanation on the county’s decision, and await her response on how we may go on with our plans to honor the 2020 graduates,” Hammond said.
NOTE: This is a developing story and we will update when we have more information from the county and MUSD.