Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Cherokee County’s public schools will be ending the school year on May 8, instead of the originally scheduled May 28. The move was approved unanimously by the Board of Education at its meeting Thursday night.

The board also voted to postpone a decision on high school graduation ceremonies until July 1.

School buildings have been closed since mid-March when online study was implemented to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has spread around the world. Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this month ordered schools closed through the rest of the academic year.

The Cherokee County school board acted on the recommendation of Superintendent Brian V. Hightower, who came up with the proposal after surveying thousands of parents, students and educators.

“These are important decisions that I know we could make on our own, using our knowledge and experience as educators and leaders, but we also are a family. We can’t gather around a kitchen table to talk about what’s best, but we can ask and listen,” Hightower said. “Just like in decisions we make with our own families, we’re not always going to all agree, but we do our best. These decisions, I believe, are for the best.”

Hightower said other factors, including student online learning participation and performance data and school administrator feedback, also were considered.

Teachers will work from May 9-22 with students who need more time and help to complete assignments and tests to pass classes, and will continue preparing high school students for AP course exams to potentially earn college credit. Final grades will be issued on May 22. The school system also will provide parents with links to available online resources for students who want to continue their learning over the summer. A plan for CCSD’s annual summer school remediation and credit recovery program is still being developed.

A decision on Class of 2020 high school graduation ceremonies will be postponed until July 1. If social distancing guidelines have changed substantially by July 1 to allow for traditional ceremonies, they will be scheduled at a location and on a schedule to be determined, officials said. If large gatherings remain a public health risk as of July 1, a virtual ceremony will be planned.

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