March 18, 2020: As the Claremont community was informed that CHS would be temporarily closing, effective March 13, an official statement came out from CUSD Superintendent Dr. Jim Elsasser on March 18, stating that for the time being, all school work would be optional. This was to support and acknowledge students who do not have access to the necessary technology, as well as a diverse range of family situations.
March 19, 2020: An official statement from CUSD superintendent Dr. Elsasser was published, sharing the news that students could now work to raise their grades, rather than grades remaining completely stagnant.
April 14, 2020: In light of CHS’ official closure for the remainder of the academic year, CUSD superintendent Dr. Elsasser sent out an official statement outlining a long-term learning plan for CHS students going into effect on Monday, April 20. This new grading policy, referred to as the “required remote learning plan,” transitions school work from optional to mandatory, as CHS students will now be receiving grades rather than only credit. However, the somewhat unclear wording of this new plan left many teachers and students confused.
April 14, 2020: CHS senior Dirk Morken launched a petition urging the CUSD school district to revert their grading policy during the COVID-19 pandemic back to the previous “optional enrichment-based learning plan,” rather than continuing with their plans to move towards a graded, “required remote learning plan” the district announced would go into effect on April 20, 2020. Within less than four hours, the student-led petition reached 1,000 signatures from CHS students, parents, and even some teachers from other districts, soaring over its original goal of 500. These signatures were followed by floods of comments from concerned community members about the well-being of students in light of the new grading policy.
This petition is a call for CUSD to take into account the diverse home lives of its students as well as their mental health during this time period, advocating that students should be focusing on the safety and well-being of families and themselves, rather than school being the first priority. Morken also outlines that “for the last month, CUSD has stated that they are following in the footsteps of LAUSD to ensure that we as a district are making sure that students are getting a strong education as well as making sure students are safe and healthy.” However, Morken continues to state that LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner has declared that assignments for the rest of the academic year may only work to help one’s grade, not harm it, as the California Department of Education endorses. The petition addressed to CUSD begs the question: why did CHS switch to mandatory assignments? Proponents of the petition believe that the switch may deteriorate the mental health or grades of students who may be unable to complete all assigned work. The petition also stirred up some controversy within the Claremont community as it was taken to Facebook, where some Claremont parents and students expressed opposition, emphasizing that students should endure this time of hardship and accept mandatory work. Many posed that CHS students will invariably face harsher circumstances in the future and that the pandemic is a necessary learning experience for all students.
Link to petition: http://chng.it/95QLn6Fgdb
April 15, 2020: The petition titled “Make CUSD Schoolwork Optional Due to COVID-19 Pandemic,” created by CHS senior Dirk Morken with help from CHS senior Timothy Chang, reaches approximately 2,000 signatures; to put it in perspective, approximately 2,400 students attend CHS. In addition, a CUSD Board meeting is scheduled to be held tomorrow evening, where the petition will likely be discussed. More updates to come in the following days.
April 17, 2020 Update:
April 16, 2020: On Thursday, another informational email was sent to CHS families from Superintendent Jim Elsasser with the intent to ease any concerns or anxiety families may be feeling regarding the new mandatory grading policy scheduled to go into effect on Monday, April 20.
The email outlined “that anxiety was not the intent of our [CUSD’s] updated Continuum of Learning plan,” as well as their reasoning behind the new grading policy. The CUSD school district is looking ahead to next year, as they explain that students will not succeed without the completion of their academic courses this year. Dr. Elsasser also stresses that teachers will be understanding and flexible during this time, encouraging students to reach out to teachers and communicate any hardships they may be facing. However, despite CUSD’s email, many students and parents alike still shared great concern about the switch to mandatory work.
Later that evening, a CUSD Board meeting was held on Zoom, available for members of the community to join. Many of these community members were CHS students and parents who spectated the meeting, hoping to discuss both the petition and concerns addressed to the new grading policy. CUSD did address some parent concerns, reading aloud two emails from CUSD parents concerned about their children’s mental health.
However, as this was the only mention of the grading policy change (as well as no mention of the petition), many CHS students attending the meeting were thoroughly disappointed and aggravated. As the chat function of Zoom was unavailable to the public, many students attempted to make their voices heard by the board, holding up pieces of paper with differing messages written on them to get their sentiments across. This situation quickly escalated, as selected students’ camera function was shut off and some were removed from the Zoom meeting entirely. With these actions, students held up papers reading “prioritize the mental health of your students,” “read and listen to OUR petition,” “If you care about students, UNMUTE US!” along with many other short messages directed at the CUSD Board.
There was no further discussion of or visitation to the grading policy during the Board meeting, leaving many in the Claremont community satisfied, while many were left indignant.