The hope of ending the school year on a normal note by returning to Highlands High School just reached an official end. Just yesterday, (April 21) Principal Matthew Bertasso announced that Governor Andy Beshear advised that NTI days be continued for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
Mixed opinions had been presented on the current NTI program and how it affected students, teachers, and other staff up until this point. For some students, the new learning environment has been adaptive to different learning styles, while others believe it to be more stressful and harder to keep up with work.
“For some, they’ve thrived and have done really well in this environment,” Principal Matthew Bertasso explained, “Some students have really grown in their learning and how they approach their schooling, while others have struggled to meet deadlines and find the things that they need.”
Bertasso took his announcement also as an opportunity to explain the possibilities of a new pass/fail grade scale. First off, the semesters for the year will now be broken up into individual quarters. For example, the first semester will include quarter one and quarter two as well as students’ midterm exam scores for the first semester. Then, the first semester will be converted into a single GPA encompassing all of those components, whereas the second semester will consist of both the GPA and credit from classes.
The two quarters in both semesters are generally each 40% of the final semester grade, and the final/midterm exam accounts for the remaining 20%. This will not occur during the second semester, as it is being tweaked a little to provide empathy for students.
Put in action, the second semester will have a shortened fourth quarter, ending next Thursday, April 30th. Although the end of this quarter is only a week away, an extension period will be included for the remainder of the calendar school year where pass/fail grading will be put in place. This new system will allow students to have less stress, relieve the pressure of maintaining a GPA, and hopefully allow students to hold a consistent A and B average.
After the fourth quarter reaches its end, the instructional day schedule will be slightly different with May 1st and 4th both being days off for students. These days will be used for teachers to work on calculating grades and creating assignments for their students to work on for the remainder of the year. The start of the extension days will begin on May 5, 2020.
During the extension period, grades will be given differently based on which classes you are taking. As an AP student, the class objective will be to prepare for the AP exam through review activities until the day of the exam. Students taking non-AP courses will receive a “single multi-step assignment”. This assignment will be different for each class and will demonstrate knowledge gained in the class during the year.
Although most students have done well during NTI days, there are still students who need help further adapting to the change. Remediation activities will be given to these students who need extra help in understanding lesson content through this difficult time.
Throughout all the NTI days that have passed, students have been required to check in with their teachers daily to take attendance and earn participation points. However, once extension days begin, attendance will be taken through one course, the workload planning course. Each day, students will have to submit a single document saying what they are currently working on or what they have completed.
After the first few weeks of the extension period, students will not have school again on May 15th or 18th and teachers will be able to plan on these days. Additionally, since there is no school closure for election day this year, the last day of school will be moved up to May 21st. By this day students must have all their assignments completed so their final pass/fail grade for each class can be given.
At this time senior events are still up in the air, however, Bertasso has promised that there will be a graduation of some form on May 27th at 7:00 pm. Even though it will most likely not be in-person due to the circumstances, the faculty and Principal Bertasso are working to set up a separate activity to honor the Class of 2020 and make their graduation year special.
The front running idea conceived by staff and teachers is currently a “20 Flyby” which would be held from May 1st through 4th. A “20 Flyby” would involve members of the senior class creating the shape of a “20” of any kind in an area that can be captured on camera. Drones would then be able to capture the “20’s” students have created to make a collective video. More information on this event can be found at http://20.hhsbirds.com.
Despite the promise of a graduation and potential of a “20 Flyby,” the non-traditional end of the school year has been difficult for many seniors. Senior Reagan Lindeman is one of many seniors who feels she has missed out on and is continuing to miss out on many events. “We don’t get a prom, senior picnic, or spirit week. Instead, we just get an end to what we have been working for for 13 years. We all know it’s for the best, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.”
This is a developing story. More updates and information from the governor and Bertasso will be published as they surface.