Officials work to salvage school experience after closure

  • Lumpkin County High School
    Lumpkin County High School

Graduation will go on.
Though it may not be a traditional ceremony, that’s one of the guarantees LCHS principal Billy Kirk and Lumpkin County superintendent of schools Dr. Rob Brown are working towards as they help students cope with the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We remain committed to having a graduation ceremony for our seniors,” Brown said. “They have been short-changed on several experiences, but we will not let them miss out on graduation.”
Last week, the hopes of getting students back into classrooms were shattered when Governor Brian Kemp announced that all Georgia K-12 schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year.
Not having students bustling in the halls going from class to class at the high school, especially members of the Class of 2020, has been tough on the school’s faculty and students alike.
“My heart hurts for our high school seniors who were just weeks from graduation, and who had so many senior experiences robbed from them,” said Brown.
Kirk agreed.
“Disappointing is an understatement,” said Kirk. “You would be hard-pressed to find a teacher or administrator who hasn’t felt immense sadness from all of this. We miss our students, and the last quarter of the senior year is such an epic time for our students. They are missing some really important events like Capstone, possibly their prom, field trips and state competitions and their last year of high school sports. But, most of all, they are losing the opportunity to spend their last weeks with their friends and classmates from the past 13 years.”
But, through this whole ordeal, Kirk and Brown have tried to give LCHS students everything they need in order to cope with the pandemic and to finish out the school year strong through remote learning.
“We remain in constant communication with students,” Brown said. “If any need is expressed, we immediately begin to find new ways to serve that need.”


One of the ways the school has met those needs is by setting up counseling sessions for any student who may need them.
“Our counselors, social worker, school improvement specialists, graduation coach and administrators are spending their days communicating with students remotely,” Kirk said. “We are using services like Google Hangouts and Zoom to have face-to-face counseling sessions with our students as well.  We also need to make sure our students are continuing to progress in their schoolwork and be ready to graduate with the appropriate credits.  It takes a whole tribe to make this happen, especially when the students are down the hall for us to talk to easily.”
Brown, who wanted to relieve some of the stress from the pandemic and the difficulties of online learning, set up Friday Family Fun Days to allow students to take a break and focus on spending time with their families.
“[It’s] to remind students, parents and our community that we are all in this together,” Kirk said. “There are some dark times ahead, and Dr. Brown wants students to find some light in these days. In addition, our teachers need an opportunity to plan, grade and get ready for the following week. They are working many, many hours during the day, and giving them Friday to plan and grade allows them to get caught up.”


“Students, parents and staff members are feeling the stress from current events,” Brown said. “We want them to remember that family comes first. Additionally, because our students are not on a schedule, our staff is working all hours of the day and night to serve students. They need a day to regroup and plan instructional activities.”
When it comes to graduation for the Class of 2020, Brown and Kirk are trying to stay positive and are focused on finding creative ways make sure that this year’s seniors are recognized through some sort of ceremony.
“We are currently still planning to have a graduation ceremony,” Kirk said. “Will it be on May 22nd? Likely no. But, we will delay and reschedule for later in the summer. It might be that we cannot have families in attendance and only graduates, six feet apart. It really is a waiting game.”