Santa Clara County issued an extension of school closures until May 1 in an effort to slow the transmission of COVID-19, according to a press release from the county’s health and school officers.
This issue was in correspondence with other surrounding counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, Napa and San Mateo — following California’s recent shelter-in-place orders.
Palo Alto Unified School District Supt. Don Austin stated in a press release on March 25 that, in consideration of the extension, PAUSD will move into Phase III of its distance learning program, increasing student engagement with school curriculum.
PAUSD was originally set to reopen in April after spring break, but that expectation became increasingly dubious as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced during a March 17 news conference that Californian schools will likely not reopen for the remainder of the school year.
The release also stated that PAUSD will shift to a credit/no credit grading system for the second semester of the 2019-20 school year. The new grading system, according to Austin, “will benefit our staff and students without negative consequences for students with collegiate aspirations.”
In a school-wide Schoology message, Austin said the move “reduces some anxiety.”
“As a team, we didn’t think students should be worried about competing for GPA rankings during a time with so much confusion and transition,” the message stated.
Austin assured that universities will not penalize students with absences of standardized testing or for the postings of credit/no credit transcripts. GPAs will not be positively or negatively impacted by the change in grading practices, according to Austin.
The release also explained how these extenuating circumstances will be outlined in the PAUSD’s school profiles.
“School profiles explain circumstances to colleges, including graduation requirements, grade point average calculations, honors courses, average SAT/ACT scores and other elements that make schools unique,” the release stated. “In this case, the shift to credit/no credit grading in the face of a national pandemic will be described and accepted without penalty.”
The shift is temporary, however, as Austin states that the credit/no credit grading system will be discontinued in the fall.
Junior Heidi McIntosh said she is concerned about the new grading system and how it disregards students’ work in the semester thus far.
“For those students who still want second semester grades, there should be a way for them to still have them on their transcript,” McIntosh said in a text message. “It’s really discouraging when so many people have worked so hard … and now none of that hard work matters.”