Why some schools are ending the year early

Shift online 'has created an extra burden and extra stress,' one superintendent says

The challenges of online learning, including family stress and students’ lack of access to technology, is driving a growing number of school districts to the end the 2019-2020 school year early.

The Bibb County School District in Georgia, for example, has moved up its last day from May 22 to May 1.

In a message to the district, Superintendent Curtis Jones congratulated students who improved their semester grades since the coronavirus outbreak shut down schools.

“But while there has been success, I also have heard from parents and educators about the stress this unique situation has placed on families and our staff,” Jones says.

More from DA: How will schools reopen safely in fall 2020?

The district will use the remaining weeks that schools would have been open to conduct professional development and collect the computers and other devices that have been distributed to students.

Several other districts in Georgia are also ending the year early, including Carrollton County School System, Carrollton City Schools, Chattahoochee County Schools, the DeKalb County School District and the Richmond County School System, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In Richmond County, online learning will end May 8 and students will have until May 22 to complete assignments, Superintendent Kenneth Bradshaw said on the district’s website.

As for final grades, high school students can choose the grade they had on March 19 or try to improve their grades through online assignments.

The district has also waived is promotion and retention policy.

“Placement committees made of teachers, principals, and parents will have the flexibility to make placement decisions for students who do not meet traditional promotion criteria,” Bradshaw said.

High School Courses

In Nebraska, Bellevue Public Schools, Elkhorn Public Schools, Millard Public Schools, Omaha Public Schools and the Westside School District have all shortened their school year by at least a week, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Dismissing students early gives teachers time to reassess online learning and begin planning for next year, Millard Superintendent Jim Sutfin told the World-Herald. 

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In New Hampshire, the stress families and educators have experienced during the shift to remote learning led the Monadnock School District to the end the year two weeks early, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.

“Remote learning is a great concept and can be very effective if implemented as a systemic approach to learning,” Witte said, according to the Union Leader. “Trying to shift learning modes mid-school year, in the midst of a pandemic that brings a very real set of stressors to everyone in the community, makes balancing all of this difficult for everyone.”

Also in New Hampshire, Dover Public Schools moved its last day up to June 5, from June 22, according to Foster’s Daily Democrat.

For one, teachers have trouble keeping students engaged as summer break approaches in June, Superintendent William Harbron said.

“When we looked at remote learning, some families have fallen into a very good routine with it, but for other families, it has created an extra burden and extra stress,” Harbron said, according to Foster’s. “By ending school for students on June 5, we saw that as a way to lift the stress on those families.”

DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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