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Colby H.S. students to choose how to be graded

By Kevin O’Brien

Colby High School students and their parents will have a decision to make over the next few weeks: do they want to receive traditional letter grades for their second-semester classes or simply have them listed as pass/fail.

The school board passed the two-option plan at its Monday night meeting, giving administrators the go-ahead to send out a letter explaining the options to parents.

Seniors will have until May 15 to decide which option they want, while freshmen, sophomores and juniors will need to choose by May 29.

The choice of grading options is meant to acknowledge the struggles some students have faced in adapting to an online learning environment necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting the week of March 16, all of the district’s classes were moved online due to the statewide shutdown of schools. This left students and teachers with no other option but to continue instruction over the Internet using virtual settings such as Google Classroom.

Because not all families in the district have equal access to a high-speed Internet connection, administrators have decided to give high school students some leeway on their second-semester grades.

“It is our goal to provide a quality education as we finish this school year, while also providing students needed flexibility to be academically successful during this crisis,” states the letter from administrators.

The district’s “highly recommended” option is for to students to stick with the letter grade system, especially for those who want to show colleges “that you have maintained a high level of success during a time of adversity.”

Under this option, which is “designed to honor students who continue to maintain their high grade levels,” a student’s grade-point average will continue to be calculated as normal.

For students who have faced obstacles with virtual learning, the second option allows them to earn a passing grade as long they earn 60 percent of the available points for the semester. If they fall below this threshold, they will receive no credit for the class.

Any class required for graduation must be repeated if the student receives no credit; this applies to seniors as well. With this option, neither a passing grade nor a no credit will count toward a student’s GPA.

With either option, the third-quarter class work will be weighted more (75 percent) than the fourth-quarter (25 percent), to acknowledge the point at which classes transitioned to online-only.

At Monday’s meeting, superintendent Steve Kolden said the proposal was the result of much discussion among administrators, who did not want to just write off a third of the school year as if the academic content were not important.

“We also need to recognize the stress and virtual struggles that some of our students are feeling,” he said.

Districts across the state are making similar decisions due to the closure of in-person classrooms. Last week, Abbotsford’s school board voted to put all fourth-quarter classes on a pass/fail system, with no option for letter grades.

Other business

_ The board accepted the resignations of Dora Szemborski as the high school yearbook advisor and Alexis Krueger as the district’s IT coordinator. It also approved the hiring of Bridget Donahue as a seventh-grade language arts teacher and Nathan Larsen as the new varsity volleyball coach. Teacher Christine Olson was transferred from seventh-grade language arts to sixth-grade science.

_ The board approved a quote from Basemen Brothers, which will refinish the high school gym floor for $26,135 and the middle school gym floor for $14,876. The Colby Booster Club donated $6,000 toward the project.

_ The board approved a revision to the district’s 2019-2020 bussing contract with Burnett Transit, which will be paid 80 percent of the contracted daily rate on days that were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Kolden said Joe Burnett had originally offered to accept 65 percent of the daily rate, but the board’s transportation committee decided to pay more in light of certain cost savings and the district’s 50-year relationship with the Spencer-based busing company.

_ The board voted to pay the district’s spring sports coaches one-third of their normal wage, with the remaining twothirds going toward purchases approved by the coaches.

_ The board approved the creation of a new full-time special education teaching position, with the person serving as a case manager for students transitioning from middle to high school. The position will take the place of two special ed aide positions that were recently vacated.

_ The board approved bonuses for support staff who have been required to work full-time during the COVID-19 shutdown while others got two-thirds of their normal wages for staying at home. Kolden said the plan is to pay each of these hourly employee an extra $150 for every 10 days they work, which matches the incentives regularly paid to longterm substitutes. With members of the kitchen staff, custodial staff and a couple of district office employees having to continue working for close to 60 days during the shutdown, Kolden said this amount to about $900 per employee.

_ The board approved $8,727 worth of equipment purchases for the tech ed. wood shop, using savings from the reduction of materials used this year.

_ The board approved a 2.65 percent wage increase for the district’s hourly employees, administrators and executive staff. As is done every year, the percent increase is applied to the entire pool of employees’ wages, and then divided equally among those employees.

_ The board approved 5 percent raises for employees on the extra-duty wage schedule who have not received increases in several years.

_ The board approved a bump in wages for the district’s coaches and extracurricular advisors, who are paid based on a point system. Under the new wage schedule, the value of each point increased from $102 to $105.

_ The board approved a waiver to its own operating procedures, allowing board members to participate remotely in meetings more than twice a year and permitting members to participate remotely in closed session discussions.