Schools adapt to pandemic closures

Last week, schools on Whidbey joined the rest of the state in moving classes online as buildings are shuttered for the school year due to the pandemic.

How the closures will affect other aspects of student life, such as grade point averages and graduation, remains unknown. School officials have said the situation is constantly developing.

Oak Harbor, Coupeville and South Whidbey school districts are primarily utilizing Google Classroom.

The districts are providing students with technology they may need, such as Chromebook laptops.

The Washington Office of the Superintendent had recommended that districts move to a “pass” or “no pass” grading system so that grade-point averages remained unaffected, but that may change.

“There is now some indication that the pass or no credit grading system may have a negative impact on students applying to attend four year universities in Washington,” Coupeville School District said in a press release.

“The State is now putting together a committee to give a new recommendation on the grading system schools should use and Coupeville is waiting for the State to provide guidance.”

Oak Harbor School District has also taken a “do no harm” approach to grading but is similarly looking at how to allow students to improve their grade point averages.

“We are exploring ways to assist students who wish to increase their GPA and we are expecting more guidance about secondary grades from OSPI, shortly.” Oak Harbor district communications officer Conor Laffey said in an email.

While it is too soon to tell what the effect the online learning will have on the traditional in-person education, Oak Harbor School District has seen some benefits from online learning.

“We have already seen advantages to having a common online platform for all of the classes, common grading expectations, and the ability for both synchronous (at the same time) and asynchronous (at different times) learning,” Laffey said.

However, traditional in-person instruction will remain the preferred method for all districts.

“We have been using that model in our public schools for a long time.” South Whidbey School District Superintendent Jo Moccia said in a press release. “All of our students, especially our young children, need guidance, attention, and compassion from teachers who develop personal relationships over time.”

Online education “will never take the place of daily, face to face instruction,” Moccia said in an email.

Students are encouraged to contact their teachers about issues they have regarding the online education.

“Provide your teachers with feedback so that they know where each student stands and what help students may need to get through it,” South Whidbey Superintendent Moccia said in a press release. “As we expect our teachers to communicate with their students and parents, we need our parents and students to communicate with their teachers.”

The districts are looking at a variety of different options for graduation ranging from virtual graduations where students are handed a diploma and parents watch online to pushing the ceremony to a later date to drive-in graduations.