Administration uses lessons learned from COVID-19 while preparing for next school year, late spring events

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Principal Tom Harmas sits at his desk while wearing a mask to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. He said he believes that all of the changes made this year due to the pandemic have actually made CHS stronger in the long run.

Rhea Acharya

According to Principal Tom Harmas, many of his current day-to-day activities center around planning for next school year. Although he said no decisions have been made by Superintendent Michael Beresford or the School Board yet about whether next school year’s instruction will have a virtual component, administration is discussing other aspects of next year, such as the master schedule for classes, the new construction project on Main Street, and how to use the knowledge they’ve gained while providing instruction during a pandemic to continue improving the learning experience at CHS.

He said, “We’ve learned so much this year. We have to figure out what we’re going to take with us and what we just leave behind. We’ll take (our new way of grading) with us. I think it’s best for kids; I think it gives the whole picture for what students are doing. And our new ways of assessing, where we really try to see what kids know instead of what kids remember, is a great thing to take forward.”

Other changes from this year that Harmas said he would like to incorporate into future years include the increased use of Canvas by teachers and the “flipped classroom” models that many classes have embraced.

He said, “It would be easy just to say, ‘Oh, we’re back to our normal life so we’re going to forget all of this year.’ But I think we’ve evolved and we’ve become better, so we have to continue to use what we’ve learned this year.”

In addition to planning for next year, Harmas has also been working on developing plans for prom and graduation. He said that although a final decision has not yet been made, he speculates that it is unlikely that prom will happen as it would in a normal year due to concerns with having students in such close proximity to one another.

In regards to graduation, Harmas said administration has brainstormed several options for how the ceremony could be conducted. These ideas include having several ceremonies with only a small portion of the graduates attending each one, allowing only graduates to attend the ceremony with family members watching it virtually, and hosting a drive-through graduation similar to the one conducted in 2020. However, Harmas said that as it is hard to predict right now exactly what the COVID-19 situation will be like in late spring, it is too soon to decide which option will ultimately be chosen.

Student body president Julia Heath said that she appreciates the effort administration is putting in to plan different possible ways to host graduation. She said her personal favorite idea for a modified graduation is having a drive-through ceremony as she enjoyed the experience when her sister graduated last year.

Heath said, “(My sister) really enjoyed decorating the car for our family and driving through the ceremony. Everyone was super happy. When we drove through downtown Carmel afterward, cars would honk at us when they saw the decorations on our car. I think it went even outside of the school district; it became an ‘all of Carmel’ type of thing. I think our grade would really enjoy something like that if it had to be changed. And honestly, it was more exciting than a three-hour ceremony.”

She also said she thinks that having a graduates-only ceremony, with family and friends watching online, would also be a viable option.

Ultimately, Harmas said, “We are going to have to be flexible. We know we are going to have some sort of celebration for our seniors; we just don’t know what that’s going to be yet.”

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