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Dear SkillsUSA Georgia students, teachers, administrators, parents and partners,
 

Last week on March 12, SkillsUSA Georgia made the difficult decision to halt the 2020 SkillsUSA Georgia State Leadership and Skills Conference (SLSC). This decision was made with heavy hearts and a lot of emotion after the situation around COVID-19 began rapidly escalating the day our largest event of the year began.
 
The decision to stop and postpone the SkillsUSA Georgia SLSC was an extremely difficult decision made in counsel with the Georgia Department of Education; the SkillsUSA Georgia Board of Directors; the SkillsUSA national office, their board and event management experts; and evolving information and public directives surrounding COVID-19. 
 
Our hope was to hold our event with adjustments to ensure the safety of members as we closely monitored the situation and provided multiple safeguards and social distancing, always keeping in mind the health of all conference participants. However, the rapidly escalating situation made the continuation of this event feel unsafe. Based on emerging state and federal guidance and after consulting SkillsUSA’s national leadership team and their event management experts, the decision was made to halt the event. Members were asked to collect belongings, board their buses and return home. We understand this was enormously frustrating and disappointing, but it was the best solution to maintain the safety of students, which is always our highest priority. 
 
Also, as you can imagine running a large state conference is an expensive undertaking. Serving thousands of members at a conference requires many contracts booked months in advance for conference space, hotel space, catering and more. SkillsUSA Georgia was required to pay all conference vendors prior to the start of our event. All conference registration fees we received were therefore already spent before the event began. We are now working with all vendors to review contracts and recoup any funds if possible. We are still gathering information, and we do not have an answer about conference registration refunds at this time. Please know that it is our priority to be completely transparent in terms of finances and any potential refunds once we can determine that information.
 
As for hotel cancellations and refunds, we again have a fluid, challenging situation. Our SkillsUSA Georgia hotel contract obligations stand whether the event is held or not. This was true whether we cancelled two weeks ago or on Thursday. SkillsUSA Georgia is working with legal counsel to begin conversations with conference hotels on how to proceed with an appropriate course of action that is fair for all parties. The conference hotels are working with their corporate headquarters to determine their response to our members who are seeking refunds. 
 
The SkillsUSA national headquarters is working closely with SkillsUSA Georgia to determine how to support students and provide a safe competition opportunity for all 2020 Georgia state contestants. SkillsUSA Georgia will announce a new plan for running state events that provides our hard-working members with the opportunities for recognition they deserve. Our goal is to develop a fair, efficient process in which students can demonstrate their skills and earn the title of state champion. Alternative ways to evaluate and recognize student work might include teleconferencing, YouTube and Google Drive for students to complete and submit work to be judged. In addition, some events may require a set of state judges to visit schools or contest sites around the state and evaluate students’ work. Once named, our state gold medalists will then be qualified to attend the 2020 SkillsUSA Championships. SkillsUSA is currently looking at all options for national events, which could also include postponement or virtual events. Further plans for the national championships are expected to be announced in April.
 
Since the COVID-19 situation erupted, we have all been in uncharted territory and no one can predict how this situation will continue to evolve over the next few weeks. This is a national health crisis — truly a global health crisis — and that means it is much bigger than SkillsUSA Georgia and our organization. We will all be required to exercise patience and understanding as we work to resolve many issues. 
 
While we have a whole timeline of specific events that led up to our final decision to cancel the state conference, the main message we wish to convey today is a sincere apology to everyone who was inconvenienced or disappointed by this decision. We will continue to work hard to come up with the best possible solutions and will communicate those out to all stakeholders in the coming weeks. Please watch for updates. Your state leadership team, contest organizers and partners appreciate your help and support through this crisis.
 

Sincerely,
 
Ashley Brown
SkillsUSA Georgia Executive Director
The SkillsUSA Georgia Board

 

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