Mat-Su Borough School District

PALMER — The Mat-School Borough School Divstrict is shifting to virtual graduations this spring and the Mat-Su Borough School Board voted to ease graduation requirements for the class of 2020 during its school board meeting Wednesday night in Palmer.

Mat-Su Borough School District Superintendent Dr. Monica Goyette announced that all school district activities are closed through May 31. This follows the announcement made by Gov. Mike Dunleavy last week that schools statewide will be closed to students until at least May 1. The list of school activities that are now canceled include spring sports, academic clubs, proms and graduations. All of the decisions are based on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Weighing on us the most is graduations,” Goyette said. “Currently the principals and district administration is planning on virtual graduation ceremonies as scheduled.”

Goyette said each graduation ceremony can be viewed on social media.

“This will be a celebration on Facebook and each student will receive a thumb drive,” Goyette said. “Of course this does not replace one of the most culminating events in a student’s life, and we are going to do everything we can to make that special and celebrate that.”

Goyette said the district hopes to have student speakers and students singing the national anthem.

“We’ll have recordings of important leaders, recording of (Mat-Su School Board president Thomas Bergey) accepting each class and a picture of each student while their names are read,” Goyette said.

The school board also used a unanimous vote to relax graduation requirements for the class of 2020. Now seniors only need 21 total credits to graduate, which aligns the district with state requirements, as opposed to the prior benchmark of 24.

“This request came to us through passionate principals,” Assistant Superintendent Amy Spargo said.

Spargo noted Burchell High principal Shelli Lincoln and Valley Pathways principal James Wasner specifically.

“(They) are thinking of their students who often have credit deficits, and this rapid shift to remote learning didn’t allow for a verification of technology or the kinds of things like face-to-face support to help the kids who are credit deficit to earn the most amount.”

Spargo said support for this quickly grew throughout the district.

“We ran this by all the principals, we talked to counselors about this and there is widespread support in the district to afford to this waiver,” Spargo said.

Spargo estimated this will effect about 10 percent of seniors, at most

The school board also unanimously approved an amendment that would include fifth-year seniors who were originally slated to be part of the class of 2019.

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