WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to ease graduation requirements for high school students whose academic record has been damaged by the distance-learning requirements of Covid-19 restrictions.
Under the plan, students at risk of failing a course, but who show up and participate either in-person or online and put in an effort to do the work, will not have the class counted against their graduation requirements.
“Regardless of whether they receive a passing grade, they can still graduate,” said Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Instruction Kristen Shouse. “It’s built on their attendance and their participation.”
While the changes approved Wednesday do not affect courses mandated by the state, that could also change under Assembly Bill 104, a proposed law currently wending its way through an expedited legislative process. That law among other things would require schools to offer pass/no pass options for students at risk of failing.
Students hoping to participate in the district’s new option will first meet with their teachers and counselors to develop an individualized plan.
The changes to graduation requirements were modeled after “hold-harmless” policies developed last year as Covid-19 restrictions took hold. These policies took into account learning loss and the difficulty of attending school virtually by mandating that a student’s grades could fall no lower than they were before distance-learning requirements were put in place.
The new policy comes after district data monitoring found the grim reality that just 85% of the seniors at Aptos High School are on track to graduate this year, along with 66% of those at Pajaro Valley High and 65% at Watsonville High, Shouse said.
District officials estimate that 447 seniors will benefit from the new policy.
Some students will be able to qualify for a fifth year of high school to make up missing credits.
“The stakes of not getting a high school diploma are much greater at the moment,” Shouse said. “We would be leaving a lot of students out there without a high school diploma, and that is something that is very much going to be prohibiting to their lives.”