GAINESVILLE – Members of the Hall County Board of Education smiled broadly Monday evening as the “Graduation Rate Update” portion of the agenda was discussed. It was all good news, and most felt, the result of a lot of hard work.
“I just want to take a little bit of an opportunity here to brag about our graduation rates,” Kevin Bales, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, told school board members. “You will see that we have been on a steady climb over the last ten years, and we are at an all-time high.”
A record had been set: 88.9 percent of students attending district high schools managed to complete course requirements within four years and receive a regular diploma. That significantly topped the previous year’s rate of 82 percent.
Hall County also outperformed the statewide graduation rate of 83.8 percent, as well.
And while the data was good news, Hall County School Superintendent Will Schofield waited for the comments to die down before sounding a clarion call that those numbers will most certainly be much lower when released a year from now.
“Due to the pandemic and…the number of students that are digitally learning, I just want to tell you right now…next year I do not expect large increases in the graduation rate,” Schofield said soberly. “As a matter of fact, I’ll be surprised if the graduation rate does not go down significantly.”
“I cannot underscore the importance of boys and girls being physically present in school, particularly at the high school level,” Schofield added.
“I’m here to tell you that boys and girls who have not been physically present in school since March are being harmed,” Schofield said. “As far as I’m concerned, what’s around the corner is some challenges for students that have not been served for the last seven, eight months.”
After the meeting Schofield said, “I am a little concerned about what’s around the bend. When students stay home because of the pandemic and they do not live in a situation where their parents have the luxury of being able to be their primary educator during the day…a certain percentage are falling further and further behind.”
Schofield said of future graduation rates and test scores: “I don’t think we’ve begun to see one of the true costs of this pandemic: youngsters that have not been able to be in school.”