More than 1,200 seniors at Hilliard's Bradley, Darby and Davidson high schools will receive a “virtual graduation” on the original dates those seniors had expected to graduate before family, friends and classmates at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.

Although the district has “a tentative hold” on dates in late July and early August for traditional graduations at the Schottenstein Center, Hilliard City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen said he “does not see a high likelihood” for it even if Gov. Mike DeWine has by then loosened the standing orders in place prohibiting mass gatherings to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

>> Read Marschhausen's letter <<

Darby’s graduation ceremony was set for May 20, Bradley’s for May 21 and Davidson’s for May 22.

On March 20, DeWine announced school buildings would remain closed the rest of the academic year.

The state’s most recent stay-at-home order is in place through May 1, but DeWine has indicated that order could be extended.

The Schottenstein Center has canceled all events through at least July 6, Marschhausen said.

Although the district is open to the possibility of scheduling some kind of ceremony for graduates, no policy has been determined, said Stacie Raterman, the district’s director of communications.

Meanwhile, diplomas will be mailed on time to students, and transcripts will be provided to colleges and universities, military recruiters and employers “so our graduates can get on with their lives,” Marschhausen said.

The pandemic has caused not only the cancellation of graduation ceremonies but also closed classrooms.

However, the district is finding continued success with eLearning, Marschhausen said.

Since students left the classroom March 13, students have been engaged in online learning.

The attendance rate, determined by students who complete daily assignments online, has been above 95%, Marschhausen said.

The district’s physical attendance rate of students in February was 93%, he said.

For teachers and students in grades 7 to 12, eLearning is simply an extension of what students and teachers already had been doing, albeit on a more limited basis.

The blended learning the district has been doing for the past seven years “prepared us well to respond to the challenge” of full-time remote learning, Marschhausen said.

At the K to 6 level, teachers are “reinventing as they go” under the difficult circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Marschhausen said.

The economic fallout of the coronavirus likely will have an effect on whether the district will seek the operating levy it had intended in November. The amount is not yet determined.

“We may be able to postpone the request, but we aren’t sure yet,” board member Paul Lambert said.

The district has a cash reserve of about $69 million but equal to only about 35% of the district’s annual operating budget, Lambert said.

“It is said time is money, but money is also time,” said Lambert, describing how the cash reserve could allow the district to postpone a levy request.

However, Lambert raised the specter that Hilliard’s status as an affluent school district could cause it to suffer disproportionately if the state reduces public-school funding to balance its own budget.

“We will be watching,” Lambert said.

A delayed levy could result in redistricting, only at the elementary school level, one year sooner than planned, Raterman said.

If a levy were approved in November, the district likely would wait until the 2022-23 school year to redistrict, after construction and expansion decisions were made.

But if a levy is delayed, redistricting likely would need to occur for the 2021-22 school year, she said.

None of those decisions need to be made in the near future, though, Raterman said.

“We have some time to make a final decision because of our solid financial position,” she said. “We won’t know more until the forecast revision.”

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