Carmel Clay Schools on Moving Forward in 2021

March 2021

As Carmel Clay Schools (CCS) is wrapping up the 2020–21 school year, I spoke with Dr. Beresford, Carmel High School (CHS) Principal Dr. Tom Harmas and CHS Assistant Principal Amy Skeens-Benton about how the district is planning out the rest of the year as the COVID-19 metrics are trending downward and immunizations upward and as the state begins to relax some of the pandemic restrictions with regards to public gatherings.

On a Path Back to “Normal”

Recently, CCS released a statement, “Our administrative team in cooperation with the Carmel Teachers Association has gone through a very detailed evaluation of how we might return grades 6-12 to every day learning. Through this evaluation, we have determined that it is in the best interests of our students to remain in the hybrid model for the remaining 8 weeks of the school year.”

“It has been a long haul, that’s for sure,” Beresford said. “I heard a term, ‘chronic uncertainty,’ and that’s what we’ve been dealing with for over a year now. Never quite having definitive information and a lot of changes to the guidance that we’re given—so at least that has been consistent.”

Carmel Clay Schools 2021

Beresford further expressed how frequently the administration, staff and entire student population and their families have had to “pivot” throughout the pandemic and how thankful and proud he is for their fortitude and dedication to making the best of a situation that was less than ideal.

“The thing that I will always remember about the pandemic is how everybody pulled together—it was all hands on deck,” Beresford stated. “The staff, the administration, the teachers, students and families were all involved. The parents have taken on a heavy load in helping their kids at home. We decided, here in Carmel, that we were all going to pull together because we want our kids to have a good school experience and that we’re going to make it as good as we can make it under the circumstances that we are in.”

Echoing Beresford’s sentiments, Harmas added, “The teamwork between our staff [and] parents, and all the adults at CCS have really just come together to make great things happen for the kids, but we couldn’t do that without the teamwork of the kids. They have risen to the occasion and have worked so well under the circumstances. I’ve been so pleased with the way that this entire [Carmel] community has wrapped around not only CHS but CCS. We believe that education is very important in this community, and luckily, our kids believe that too.”

Honoring Long-Standing Greyhound Traditions—Safely

Emphasizing that CCS spring events—including commencement—hinge entirely on the trajectory of the number of positive COVID-19 cases, Harmas and Skeens-Benton spoke about the importance of carrying on Greyhound traditions and celebrating the Class of 2021.

“We talked about how important it is to have those kids march across the stage with their caps and gowns on and receive their diplomas with their parents in the audience,” Harmas said. “Our seniors have been missing so many great opportunities to gather, so the ‘Senior Celebration’ is an absolutely perfect event and way for us to tell them [the senior class] that we love them and how much we thank them for their leadership throughout the year.”

Carmel Clay Schools 2021

After endless hours of planning and creating a plan to submit to the Hamilton County Health Department, CHS has decided it will host a “Senior Celebration” on Friday, May 28, at Murray Stadium, following commencement, which will be held at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum on Thursday, May 27.

“We’re going to be at the Coliseum [for graduation], and we’re very excited,” Skeens-Benton expressed. “Because of its 1,600-person capacity, we will have four ceremonies [that day] and will be split up in four groups by alphabet. So, we will have about 340 graduates for each ceremony, and only parents and stepparents will be in attendance this year, but we will be livestreaming the event. The ceremony times will be at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and will last approximately an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, per ceremony. That will give us time for people to exit and for us to sanitize before the next group comes in.”

Announcing a CHS “Senior Celebration”

The following night, May 28, the Class of 2021 is invited to the “Senior Celebration” at Murray Stadium in Carmel. The event is open to CHS seniors only, as per the plan that has been submitted to the health department.

“We are having a ‘Senior Celebration’—it will be prom and Grad Fest combined,” Skeens-Benton explained. “We will be doing it outside at Murray Stadium and will have a DJ, dancing and games/activities—AND it is going to be free to our seniors!”

Carmel Clay Schools 2021

Additionally, Skeens-Benton shared that CHS will have formal dresses and suits available for students for both graduation and Senior Celebration for those who need that assistance.

“The PTO moms are going to help as well, and the kids will be able to make appointments to come in and try on dresses/suits and pick the one that they want,” Skeens-Benton said. “And as much as we would love to have a junior/senior prom this year, but with the [pandemic] numbers and protocols being what they are right now, we just want to ensure the safety of those who will attend. Next year, we’re going to have a huge prom, and I’ve already booked the facility for next year!”

Be sure to follow CCS on social media and check the CHS website at ccs.k12.in.us/chs for updates on this year’s commencement ceremony and Senior Celebration.