Canceling Remainder Of Academic Year, SBC School Head Raises Wholesale Flunking Concerns

In consultation with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, school districts, school boards and school district superintendents countywide, San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Ted Alejandre has directed that San Bernardino County public schools remain closed at least through May 1 because of the ongoing coronavirus health threat.
It was not clear whether Alejandre’s action will result in the scratching of either the second semester of the 2019-20 school year or perhaps the entirety of the 2019-20 school year in all school districts, such that none of the county’s high schools will have a traditional graduating class of 2020, rather requiring that those scheduled to leave high school this year return for academic instruction in August to obtain their diplomas either in December 2020 on May/June 2021 as members of the Class of 2021. There was no one in Alejandre’s office prepared to speak to that issue at press time today.
Alejandre made the announcement of the shuttering through May Day yesterday, Thursday March 19.
“Because of the increasing spread of the novel coronavirus in our region and across the state, we are taking a proactive and aggressive approach to maintain the health, safety and well-being of our schools and communities,” Alejandre said. “These are very difficult circumstances for our education leaders, since developments with this virus are happening so quickly. I fully support our district superintendents’ collective decision to do what is best for our students, employees and families across our county.”
Last week, beginning on March 11 and over the course of the next two days, most districts in the county moved to temporarily close at least until March 31 and in some cases until April 7 all of their schools as a preventative measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “Since the closures, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Bernardino County continue to rise,” Alejandre’s office noted.
On March 17, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors issued a countywide order intended to slow the spread of the virus by canceling gatherings of people through April 6. Combined with guidance from the state and county departments of public health calling for “social distancing” of individuals to more than 6 feet to prevent the passage of COVID-19 among people, county school district superintendents determined that an extension for closing schools through May 1 would help to deter the spread of the virus.
“The Department of Public Health appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with the county superintendent of schools and district superintendents countywide to address the impact of COVID-19 on our public schools. I support their collective decision to extend public school closures in San Bernardino County,” said Dr. Erin Gustafson, acting health officer for San Bernardino County.
“These are extraordinary circumstances concerning public health that many of us have never experienced,” Alejandre said. “These proactive steps will help students, staff and our families in the region understand that public education is committed to seeing that our communities stay healthy and safe through these challenging times.”
The closest Alejandre came to addressing whether all of the more than 400,000 students in the county will need to redo the 2019-2020 academic year or the second semester of the academic year came with this portion of the statement, “It’s very important that we continue to provide educational opportunities and equitable access for all of the 406,000 students who attend public schools in our county. We recognize the impact of COVID-19 on our schools and communities is changing daily, and these decisions are subject to change given guidance from state and county officials. We will continue our efforts to work with our districts, as well as our educational community leaders and public health officials, to see us through this public health crisis.”
While many San Bernardino County students in what was previously anticipated to be the graduating class of 2020 have applied for and in some cases have been accepted at colleges throughout the country, and in certain cases, oversees, virtually all of those students were accepted on the assumption that they would possess high school diplomas upon the initiation of their college studies. It is unclear what the policies of those various universities and colleges are in allowing students to matriculate if they do not possess a valid high school diploma.
The county’s school districts could by simple fiat waive the requirement that their students complete the academic assignments needed to finish the school year, which would solve the problem for members of the Class of 2020. Thereafter, however, students from subsequent classes throughout San Bernardino County would bear the stigma of hailing from districts where the schools have a reputation for neglecting two-ninths of their student bodies’ educational needs, rendering them at a disadvantage when competing with students from elsewhere for admission to college.
-Mark Gutglueck

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