Hamilton’s public school board cancels final exams, eases graduation requirements

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The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board has cancelled final exams due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will grade students “based on the specific learning activities and assignments throughout the semester and any final activities that demonstrate overall learning.”

In a letter sent to families on Tuesday, the board said it had decided to cancel exams and ease graduation requirements for high school students “to reflect the realities of learning and attending school during the uncertainties of a pandemic.”

“Teachers will use their professional judgment to decide on the appropriate activities that best allow students to demonstrate their learning, and scheduled exam days will be used to provide additional opportunities for students to complete assignments,” wrote Manny Figueiredo, HWDSB director of education.

Figueiredo said the changes were made after receiving feedback from families, students and staff.

The board has also eased graduation requirements by reducing mandatory community service hours from 40 hours to 20 hours, by making the Grade 10 literacy test optional, and by no longer including the results of the Grade 9 EQAO test into students’ final math mark.

Figueiredo said that any students having trouble meeting the 20-hours requirement for community service can contact their principal or guidance counsellor to explore options.

“This change reflects that graduating students may have met barriers in earning the 40-hour requirement for community involvement hours during the last school year, and there may continue to be such barriers this school year,” he wrote.

The province has also decided the Grade 10 literacy test will be done next spring for Grade 10 students and students graduating in future years.

Changes to the HWDSB graduation requirements come amid provincial discussions around altering holiday breaks and starting classes remotely in the new year.

On Wednesday morning, the Ministry of Education said it has decided not to mandate extended school closures around the holidays.

In October, the province directed school boards to plan for a switch to remote learning in the event that schools are forced to close.

Both the HWDSB and Hamilton’s Catholic board have said they are prepared for a pivot to online learning if necessary.

Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator