This is certainly not the end we had anticipated for the 2019-20 school year. We have worked since March 13 with our students, staff, families and the greater community to provide ongoing support to our families and students at this most challenging time for all of us.

Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father and third president of the United States,remarked, "Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits."

I shared these words recently with our high school seniors in the majestic Jefferson Room at New Albany High School as I filmed graduation remarks to certify the graduating class of 2020. I challenged them to always remember that each one of them possesses the power to elect a response to influence or produce the outcome of his or her pursuits. Chance does not have to define anyone, and chance alone will not produce the best outcome.

Regardless of the health crisis in our world, we have a responsibility to protect the rites of senior passage and celebrations for our youth graduating from high school. While we clearly have been forced to think creatively and differently, we will honor the class of 2020 graduates with a virtual graduation video, a drive-thru diploma-distribution ceremony and a community-pride neighborhood clap-out to honor the class and celebrate its many achievements. We also recognized accomplishments as a class with a virtual Celebration of Excellence ceremony, celebrating Eric Ji as valedictorian and Colin Wang as salutatorian, as well as the annual Senior Seminar Exhibition, awarding Kristin Dressel with the Project of Excellence and Emily Spector with the Project of the Year. All of these events are on the district YouTube or Vimeo channels and via our website at napls.us.

The class of 2020 truly an is accomplished class. Seniors have amazed us with their creativity, their leadership and their successes in academics, athletics, the arts and service. Similar to the classes that preceded them, the 2020 class has excelled beyond the levels of the classes before them and earned greater heights of achievement. They have earned the traditional rites of passage of high school graduation, and our entire community is proud of them.

The class includes 16 National Merit Scholarship finalists and eight Commended Scholars, two young men and one woman committed to serve our incredible country in the armed services and 31 students committing to take their game to the next level in collegiate athletics. Their characters, scholastic successes, personalities and footprints have adorned our school campus for years.

Collectively, we are better because of them. In addition to honoring and celebrating each graduate, we also must recognize the inspiration and leadership of our teachers, administrators and staff, the wisdom and support of their family and friends and the investment of our entire community in helping them become the adults they are today.

We wish to thank our staff for everything they've done to help support remote, online instruction throughout the end of the school year. No one anticipated that we would flip the switch so quickly to try to maneuver to this new type of learning for our district. Our students, teachers, staff and parents have persevered during such an unprecedented time

As we approach the official end of the school year and welcome summer, we will actively plan for the future. What the future may look like will take a lot of work not only from our administrative team but also working with state leaders, community members, staff and others to help us move forward and be ready for the start of a new school year in August. Please be assured that as more detailed information becomes available from state officials, we will continue to provide updates to our students and families.

We know everyone is ready to return to "normal." We will work diligently to define that "normal" in accordance with any regulations or orders required.

For now, I encourage our students and families to celebrate the conclusion of a challenging school year end while maintaining kindness, gratitude and joy for yourself and others. This pandemic has required all of us to accept that we are not in control of the events that will occur, but we can control how we choose to respond to directly influence the outcomes produced.

On behalf of everyone in the New Albany-Plain Local Schools, please accept my sincere thanks and appreciation for allowing us to serve our students, parents and community.

Michael Sawyers is the superintendent of the New Albany-Plain Local Schools.