High school seniors await instruction: 'It's all up in the air'

Posted at 9:34 AM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 10:17:02-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Christina Banko never imagined her senior year at Cosby High School in Chesterfield County would end so abruptly. A year that was supposed to be filled with memories of prom and graduation, are now replaced with fears of "what if I don't graduate on time?"

"I think a lot of people are just really disappointed," Banko said. "I'm going to go to JMU next year, hopefully."

But for now, Banko and some 93,000 other high school seniors across the state must wait for answers.

"I don't know if I'm going to graduate on time. My friends don't know if they're going to graduate on time," Banko said. "We kind of don't know anything. It's all up in the air."

On Monday evening, the Virginia Department of Education released guidelines to school divisions that will waive several logistical barriers to graduation.

Charles Pyle, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education, said the governor and state superintendent want to ensure that students who are on track to graduate this year, will graduate on time.

"We don't want students to be penalized for circumstances that are beyond their control," Pyle said.

The guidelines released to school divisions, will also help local superintendents and school boards create online curriculum and give localities the option to implement summer school and/or an extended 2020-21 school year.

The localities must adhere to strict policies that include students who are disabled, don't have online access, are unable to speak English or are young learners.

Local school divisions will also have to decide how GPAs and course credits will be calculated.

"We want learning to continue and we want students to continue to have opportunities to remain engaged in learning, even as schools are shut down," Pyle said. "But we also want school divisions, as they plan how they're going to do that, to be inclusive to provide equitable opportunities that don't leave students out."

While Banko said she struggled with some aspects of online learning, especially in math and physics , she remained hopeful that a support system will be in place.

"I feel bad for everyone," Banko said. "I feel, at every different level, someone is experiencing some type of disappointment."