2020 Legislative Breakfast Chesnutt

Park View High School representative Matthew Chesnutt offers insight on school counselors during the 2020 LCPS Legislative Breakfast on Sept. 27, 2019, as LCPS Legislative Consultant Johnna Cossaboon listens.

Twelve of the 17 Loudoun County School Board Student Representatives for the 2019-2020 school year sent the School Board a letter earlier this week expressing their dissatisfaction with its decision to conduct small, in-person graduations for the Class of 2020, of which all representatives are a part.

After a few sentences thanking LCPS staff and representatives for taking necessary steps to protect the school division’s students and employees from coronavirus in the face of “immense pressure,” the letter went on to call in-person graduations insufficient to “fulfill the function of or replace the in-person graduation ceremonies you promised us.”

“... this brief experience will not provide seniors with the closure and re-connection we need to leave high school, and according to a survey we sent out to all LCPS seniors, it has already greatly disappointed them,” the statement continues.

Per the results of that survey, more than 80 percent of graduating seniors polled are unsatisfied with the graduation proposal provided by LCPS, and more than 30 percent claimed they would not attend graduation if the division ultimately goes through with its current plans. Almost 90 percent of respondents said they would prefer large-scale ceremonies in which graduates are kept six feet apart.

Earlier this semester, LCPS held a Google Meet session in which seniors were asked to offer their opinions on the best solutions for commencement ceremonies. According to the letter, one popular option was postponing large-scale ceremonies until late summer or even later. However, at last week’s board meeting, LCPS Superintendent for Instruction Ashley Ellis said the division had gathered “a strong desire … to have a celebration sooner rather than later” from the community.

By opting to have students visit their school buildings one-at-a-time with their families to pick up their diplomas, the letter-writers say the board has “taken away the most important value that all graduation ceremonies have: unity.”

“After losing our proms, trips, and the rest of our senior years, we found comfort in the fact that we would at least have the chance to see each other one last time. We were willing to wait however long for it. Now, it feels like the very last thing we thought we could have, a show of the strength of human connection against a pandemic, is lost,” the letter reads.

LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams said last week that, per current plans, small-scale ceremonies would effectively replace large-scale ones, though he and other staff members are open to the possibility of supplementary gatherings down the road, when public health concerns surrounding COVID-19 have dissipated.

Ultimately, participating Student Representatives proposed that LCPS hold in-person graduation ceremonies for all seniors after Virginia has commenced “Phase 3” of reopening, hopefully later in the summer. These would have graduates seated six feet apart from one another in a stadium or football field, while further policies and restrictions — such as whether, or how many, family members would be permitted to attend in-person — would be up to individual school officials.

“We would be able to receive our diplomas and hear the speeches of our peers and staff who have worked so hard to be able to give them,” the representatives wrote. “We would also be willing to wear masks and other necessary protective gear in compliance with health recommendations.”

Attached to the letter were dozens of comments from the Class of 2020.

“We all were very excited when they first announced that we would have an in-person graduation, but the plan they just set for it to be with only our families took that excitement right away,” one student wrote. “Having chairs 6 feet apart, hosting it outside, or limiting family members are all options for us to have the 'normal' graduation that we were promised.”

“We don’t mind waiting to graduate with our friends. That is the experience we have waited 4 years for!” said another.

Finally, the writers requested to schedule an additional virtual meeting with Williams in order to “discuss our options.”

Should LCPS hold individual ceremonies as currently planned, they will begin on June 8. Smaller schools will hold them through June 19, while larger ones will hold them through June 24.

 

(62) comments

hardworkingamerican

My GOD, looters, rioters, people being murdered in the streets, protests of thousands sitting spitting in each others faces. Murdering cops and hundred of African American businesses looted. 77 year old African American retired police officer killed and filmed while he died? What is wrong with you people. Wake up. Liberal evil is upon us. Give these students what they want and the parents. My GOD they are going to have to live in a society where liberals have eliminate police and law and order. I think every parent and student should have a graduation protest. Then it is perfectly fine with the LCPS, BOS and of course "Coonman" Northam. VOTE ALL LIBERALS OUT!!! Call for "Coonmans" removal. This social distancing Corona Virus lie is pathetic and hypocritical. Losers all of these scum who want to rob our graduates. SICK!!

Guest

I am all for the students to have a proper graduation they all deserve. But don’t make this political. Making it political is not helpful but only takes the focus away from the kids. Please stop! This is about the students and how they want to celebrate their graduation, not anyone’s political view.

amerigirl

My God, it’s an article about graduation!!! Try to focus on the article and keep your racist BS out of this

Guest

As parents of a senior, we also were disappointed with what was decided upon. Was expecting a ceremony in August on the football field with seniors and family all properly spaced. Feels like they took the easy route.

Guest01

I've already lost so much of my senior experience. All I really want is one last opportunity to see my friends before we all go our separate ways. I'm fine waiting for a large scale graduation to be possible. This is something that we've been building towards ever since kindergarten. We waited this long for it. We can wait a little longer.

Guest

We should call it a protest. Have the kids wear caps and gowns. Hold signs up that say graduation matters. Valedictorian can deliver speech through bull horn. It’s ok, elected officials tell us Covid-19 isn’t a bug deal if you are protesting.

Guest

Great comment. Good to see people finally waking up to reality after 2 months of rabbit holing. I really hope this came from a student because this person is spot-on!

djtielle

I lost a friend to covid in early February. Only symptom was blood clots and a binary pulmonary embolism. This isn’t a fake Chinese illness. This is impacting real healthy people everywhere, even if you don’t see it. I have a senior in high school. She would assume do all or nothing with graduating this year. She’s missed every part of her senior year. It’s not just about the ceremonies now. If it were up to her, she would get her diploma and move on. She’s over it. Her senior year has already been a wash. A big graduation doesn’t matter. But for those (parents or students) for whom it does, it’s really not productive to say “this is the real world; get over it.” What does that prove? It shows that they are prone to the real world just like you are. Whether they choose to speak out against a make shift graduation or protest against an abhorrent act against someone. Freedom of speech is what makes this very publication possible. Try not to silence those who are disappointed in the lack of a milestone that you inevitably got to have back in your day. The class of 2020 deserves a voice and an opportunity to voice it. They already know stuff happens. In fact, I would argue they will know way more about that and be far more prepared for uncontrollable issues in our world than any other graduate of LCPS prior to this one. Proud of them and their voice and resilience.

Voltaire

Djtielle--I lost my dad to COVID-19 on May 26 so I know what you are saying about it. I am very sorry for the loss of your friend.

amerigirl

So sorry for your loss. Unfortunately it is the younger people that are getting clotting problems and having strokes. Many don't even have other symptoms for days if at all. it catches them off guard. Can I suggest you place a graduation notice on facebook for her? It may not be much but it can help other that miss her express their feelings.

Guest

Hello everyone,

I am another one if the student school board representatives that worked on this. I see that many people on this page are wondering how they can help to get this in action. First, we would like to thank you for supporting this and keeping LCPS seniors best interests in mind. We would love if people would take the time to express their support for this plan to the school board. The more voices the better. Your opinion can be expressed to Dr. Williams over email (eric.williams@lcps.org). Thank you again for you support.

Guest

Actually in glad we get to graduate at all and a large scale of us just want this mess to be over we'd rather have our stuff now then wasting our time and summer waiting for graduation which is lame 😒

Guest

I’ve emailed the board and Eric Williams. Good luck to us! And, again - my hat is off to you young people for speaking up. Congratulations and best wishes to you all.

Guest

Thank you!!

Guest

One of my former coworkers recently went to an individual graduation ceremony at TJ, similar to what the school board has planned. The experience, in his words, “was a weird, drive through photo opp with the Principal and family”. I really hope our seniors’ graduation will not end up with this crappy experience. We should email the school board to show our support for our kids!

Guest

The kids have my support and deserve better!

Good Guy

Nobody, no one, nada, zilch, zero, null people in loudoun under 50 have died from the Chinese Communist Party released flu. But, Massa Nortam and Randall have ruined graduation for the kids. Their policies also ensure that pools are closed, which once again hurts the healthy and kids. And, sheeple put up with this irrational DEMattack on freedom. Wake up, and start acting like Americans!

Guest

What is this The Fox news comment section? Let's keep yourself serving politics out of this and work together for our seniors. We do not live in bubbles, we are an interconnected community. While it's true that no young kids have died in Loudoun county, 67 of our community members have died. The same elderly people who receive their groceries bagged, their coffees delivered, or any other number of social interactions with our younger community members are at risk. We as a community locally and nationally have done an amazing job at limiting the spread and damage of this virus. There's no point in quitting on the 10-yard line, let's see this s*** through.

amerigirl

Man it a good thing we don't have that "flu" in Loudoun. Teens can still get sick from Covid, they still spread it and take it back home with them. It causes more problems than just deaths. Keep up with the times.

LoudounPulse

Students on the LCPS board are there for show and nothing else.

djtielle

Everyone commenting is here for show. Or for a true purpose. The difference is...the level of “a clue” in some of the responses. Go class of 2020!

mopar19

Well this is a very valuable lesson in welcoming them to the real world. Don’t expect to always get your way.

ThisIsReal

That is exactly why they are speaking out and let the students’ real voice be heard! I have been so impressed by the way these student representatives are handling this issue. They are respectful but don’t give up their values. For example, they organized a survey among the seniors to collect the evidence that the school board’s individual graduation decision is disapproved by the majority of the students; they sent letters to the school board members and requested for a meeting; they reached out to news medias… They are the true leaders this country needs! The school board will have to make changes or they will look very bad by simply ignoring the students’ voice.

djtielle

Did you get to graduate? With your class? Did you have a senior year? If you didn’t graduate or participate in your graduation,

it was either due to your choices as not quite meeting the bar, or you chose not to. Not because a significant health issue stopped you from it.

Guest

Been on vacation for weeks now, online classes are a joke, want to graduate with friends and family. Not doing this stupid so called graduation. Am looking forward to the graduation parties! Heck with social distancing!

Guest

Social distancing is so April & May; The gov't has made it official, SD is not longer recommended; just look at any protest and riot; few masks and ZERO distancing all with the approval of the govvies

Guest

Student 6’ apart, wearing masks (as would be the limited audience and staff), outdoors during the day would be minimal risk. In addition, the seniors age group is the lowest at risk population. Seems totally reasonable and LOW risk. People say follow the science but I don’t see how the student’s proposal goes counter to what we know. Plus, parents always have the option to not have their child attend. Simple.

Freddy the Patriot

Had a friend who was 18 and tested positive. Had a 101 fever for one day. The Gestapo shut down to save the world was an over-reaction. Half the deaths were in retirement homes. I have moved on

djtielle

I had a 44 year old friend who died of Covid-19 who was very healthy. It chose to attack his lungs in the form of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. It isn’t like the flu. It kills people randomly. Give that some thought...

Guest

How many graduations have been modified due to students dying in car accidents?

amerigirl

How about the people he came in contact with? How high and long did they have a fever? Did his parents get it? How many people did he spread it to? I find it very hard to believe your story because until about 2 weeks ago he wouldn't have even qualified for a test.

Matthew Chesnutt

Hey everyone- my name is Matthew Chesnutt- the student in the picture and who was involved in writing this letter to LCPS admin. I understand parents who may be upset, or who may want their voice to be heard in this matter. Especially parents of Seniors. All I ask, is that before you speak out against it to the school board, ask your Senior what they think. At the end of the day, this is our graduation, and we want the school board to hear our voices and listen to what we want. We felt as though parents, who may have had external motives, were pressuring the school board into this decision. We just wanted To similarly voice our opinions, but from the students perspective. That was all that we intended with this letter.

Guest

My son graduate in 2017 and the smile that was in his face was priceless. He went from not wanting to graduate to glad that he did. I am in your corner and believe that instead of having so many people on the football field have graduates only so you can spread out if that is what they want you to do and have parents and siblings in the stands. Good luck and I hope this will happen for the graduation class of 2020.

Guest

Well done, Matthew! Proudly support you and the rest of the student leaders to speak out and be the real voice for the senior class. Keep up the good fight!

Guest

Amen!!! I am a parent of a Senior and I whole heartedly support you......this is about the Seniors and not the parents! Although we want to protect our children, they are now considered adults for the most part having turned 18....this should be THEIR moment! They have gotten SO much taken away from them that has been unimaginable.....give them one last thing they so truly deserve based on their wishes...

Guest

Matthew, first - good for you! Regardless of what happens next, you took the initiative to speak out professionally. Second, what do you suggest we parents do ... write to the school board? Is it too late to get this changed? My senior absolutely prefers the graduation you all were promised. His 3 minute version is now scheduled for next week. I hope this can be changed across the county.

Guest

Hi there! I'm another one of the Student Representatives who is working with Matthew on this. We would absolutely love for you and other parents to email the Board expressing your support of this. The more voices that speak out, the better! Currently, we are waiting for the Board to respond to our request for a virtual meeting to discuss. Thank you!!

Matthew Chesnutt

I agree with the other ^ student board rep that commented. One of the main reasons the school board made this decision in the first place was because of parent pressure, so parent support on our side would definitely be appreciated!!! Write to School Board members, spread the word, etc. Thank you for your support and for listening to us!

Guest

I agree with Matthew. Senior year and graduation is a big step forward for these students. They have worked hard to get here. Their last year in High School has already been turned upside down, why add to it by taking the joy of "walking" at a graduation ceremony away on top of it all. Make it a voluntary ceremony. If the student or their parent is to fearful to attend, then do not attend. This decision should be up to the grads and their parents, and no one else.

Guest

Of course young people feel this way. They are self centered and do not care that they may catch and spread the virus to their elderly family members.

Guest

Hey Matt, you are doing a great job!! Montgomery County Public schools in South West VA did an awesome job , all High schools in the district graduated on Saturday in a massive parking lot / drive through ceremony with all you would expect, student speakers , seniors walking across stage etc. it was live streamed on face book so you could watch from your cars as the ceremony progressed. Parents pulled around, in front of the stage as their grad walked across. Teachers were there clapping and yellling our students names, people would honk for their friends and family, it was a raucous, fun, safe event. I was skeptical prior, but I admit, it was awesome. Contact Dr. Mark Mier Superintendent , he is super approachable and a great guy. I am sure he would share details. [smile][smile][thumbup]

Guest

Sorry misspelled the name, it’s Dr. Miear

Check it https://m.facebook.com/mcpsinfo

Guest

For gods sake, get over it. It’s high school, not med school. My senior could care a less. Life is full of disappointments, get used to it. I think the small graduation ceremony is great. I don’t have to sit through 3 hours of corny speeches and 300+ names!

LoudounBornandRaised92

Your senior's views do not represent every senior in LCPS. In hindsight was my high school graduation the biggest event in my life? Absolutely not. When I graduated high school was it, at that time, the biggest event in my life? Absolutely.

Guest

For you to say "get over it" is a load of crap. You can't sit there behind your screen and tell me that graduating high school didn't mean anything to you. And yeah your senior might not be upset, but what about everyone else in lcps? Some of these kids are the first in their family graduating high school and you have the NERVE to tell us that we shouldn't care? Shut up.

Guest

Wow....it’s not about you....

djtielle

Is that what your child thinks? Or would they rather cultivate that memory on their own without your opinion? Not a sermon, just a thought...

Guest

These kids not only want the experience but the photos. The memories that will not just be in their mind but they will physically have. They could have pulled this off. I can take family photos anytime in the cap and gown. What’s sad is my daughter who loved HS has asked if she doesn’t go how will she get her diploma and yearbook ? That to me is just sad.

Heels63

So let me get this straight, almost 2000 people were allowed to gather in downtown Leesburg to "Protest", but the kids are not allowed to have a graduation. Something is seriously wrong here. I guess it's only OK to gather when it benefits a certain group.

Guest

I totally agree with your statement. IMHO Social distancing is over; the Quarantine is done; after what every major city and places like Leesburg has done allowing protests, rioting etc; Social distancing is not an issue any more; Therefore I do agree that they should let the HS Seniors have their graduation; maybe you limit it to 2 tickets or something smaller but all in all; they could have this based on what the gov't is now allowing to happen without any pushback what so ever. Whats the difference as far as the Virus goes as to whether its a graduation or riot? really there is not from the virus perspective

Guest

They could have the seniors sit out on the football field 6 feet apart in the chairs and then all the parents and other family get so many tickets and MUST wear a mask and then they can sit up in the stands using both sides of the field. If you don't want to wear a mask then you must not be allowed to attend. The mask keeps everyone safe from anyone sharing their germs. The parents and students can chose if they would like to attend or not, it will be up to the family at the time. Even if this has to be done in July or so, it still shows that the faculty and administration are putting forth some effort to show how much we all care as a community about our students and seniors. We have asked our students to put forth effort during this difficult time for everyone during this terrible pandemic now it is time for the Board and Administration to put forth some effort and follow the safest guidelines possible and offer our students some celebration for this hard work. If you look around most families and friends are already hanging out at the beaches, driving around with friends, doing all the normal things that we humans do. Lets just put forth some effort to make it work for our hard working graduating seniors. A little positive thinking with all the safe sanitary guidelines in place and lets DO THIS !! If there is a will there is a way !! Congratulations to all the hard working students over the years but definitely from beginning of March 2020 to the present and future.

Guest

Exactly! Couldn’t agree more!

Guest

Where, when and who promised them a full scale graduation?

KK153

Loudoun County promised my senior one when they took crazy high property taxes for the past 18 years of his life. Skipping the graduation ceremonies was easy... wonder if skipping their 6 figure admin salaries would be as easy.

Guest

If the county can issue permits for a protest they should be able to give these kids a full graduation

Guest

Supt William's in the letter he wrote to the Class of 2020 back in April.

Guest

While I feel for all seniors at the HS and University level; Part of the lesson's to move on in life is how "unfair" life can be and that we have to adapt to reality. It sucks, no doubt, but otoh, if this is the biggest disappointment that you have in life, consider yourself very lucky

On that note, yes it does suck and it's a total bummer.

Matthew Chesnutt

I understand that pov, but I think we have all accepted what has happened very graciously. However, in this particular situation, we have an opportunity to actually make this change. None of us would have been on board with this proposal if it meant sacrificing anyone’s health and safety. We simply identified an opportunity to give the Seniors of LoCo what they want and deserve. As student school board rep, and I’m sure my peer representatives can attest to this, anything short of that would’ve felt like we were letting down those who have chosen us to represent them.

tolerantleft

Call your graduation a "protest" and no one will stop you from walking shoulder to shoulder without masks. If Randall can do it, why not you?

Guest

I love it ... graduation protest.

Me, Just Me

So the seniors were polled and said they wanted a big ceremony, even if they had to wait throughout the summer for it, but the parents on social media (Facebook) said they wanted it in June. Which is it?

Guest

Completely agree...it’s ridiculous that the county is issuing permits for protests but we can’t have a graduation. The way people are congregating covid is obviously a non-issue. Graduations should be back on

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