STOCK Verona Area High School March 2020

The student entrance to Verona Area High School.

Verona Area High School students will get a choice over how their report cards look at the end of the academic year.

While the school board didn’t need to take action on the changes to grading because it didn’t affect its credit policy, members seemed generally supportive of a plan to allow high school students to choose at the end of the school year either a letter grade or a pass/fail grade. The district also announced it would relax standards for middle school and elementary school grading.

For students who want a letter grade on their report cards at the end of the year, their third-quarter grade would be applied to the entire semester, assistant superintendent for academic services Laurie Burgos said. Any virtual learning completed during the fourth quarter would only benefit a student’s grade, not hinder it.

Also, any assignments students complete will be considered extended learning and will not be required, she said.

Students will be able to choose what they’d like for each class, and will have the option to ask for all letter grades or all pass/fail, or a mix of something in between, Burgos said.

“We don’t want to disadvantage students due to our closure, based on any decisions we might make, in terms of their future decisions and opportunities they might take after we get through this closure,” she said.

For some students working to get dual credit for classes through institutions such as Madison College or University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the option for pass/fail grades could hinder a student’s grade-point average or completely wipe away the dual credits they were working toward, based on the institution’s policies, Burgos said.

VAHS principal Pam Hammen said part of the administration team’s desire to “do no harm” to students during virtual learning was to make sure they were still on track to go to post-secondary options.

Hammen said she had received messages from students asking for both traditional letter grades and pass/fail, based on what would be best for their own GPAs.

“I think that we’ve created a proposal that is in the best interest of all VAHS students,” she said. “It’s a little more complicated at the high school level.”

Burgos said that while the district wanted to have a message that school and being engaged with learning is good, as students and families are dealing with a pandemic that could create additional stress at home, it’s OK if education is not the highest priority right now.

Burgos also noted that students have different access to learning opportunities at home, whether it’s because of technology or having to be a caretaker for children or a full-time worker to support their families.

“We want to have opportunities for students to continue learning, but right now, in this crisis situation, it’s not the most important thing,” she said. “We’re all learning how to live each day right now, myself included.”

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.