So, How did the First Marking Period Go?: A Start to the 2020-21 school year

Musayeroh Bah

     On November 13th, the first official marking period of the 2020-21 school year came to an end. Instead of numbers, teachers entered in ‘P’ for passing or ‘NX’ for failing grades into their students’ report cards on Pupilpath. In early November, Curtis announced in a statement that for the First Marking Period, each student would only receive pass/fail grades and that there would only be 2 marking periods this semester instead of the usual 3. These changes come after a delayed start to the school year, a bumpy transition from online learning to blended learning (with an option to go fully remote), and many other changes to the NYC education system this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. This pass/fail policy only applies to the First Marking Period; all students will be receiving numerical grades at the end of the semester based on their progress from the start of the year, so these grades are not as vague as they seem. However, the DOE’s city-wide grading policy still allows students and their families to choose whether or not they want passing grades to be reflected as ‘CR’ (credit earned) or numbers on their report cards.

     Since November 13th, students and teachers in blended-learning have had to once again undergo the abrupt process of switching back to completely remote-learning after a few members of the Curtis community tested positive for COVID-19 and the citywide positivity-rate surpassed 3%, the threshold for school closures. In that time frame, parents and guardians have still been able to connect with teachers remotely to learn more about their child’s progress.

     We reached out to Mr. Jaenicke, the school principal, for more information on what’s going on behind the scenes as the Fall Semester comes to a close. On the decision to have 2 marking periods instead of 3, Mr. Jaenicke cited the later start to the year and numerous program changes that were impacting students and staff as the deciding factors. “It was just a recognition of that upheaval early on. Other schools around NYC had already switched to 2 marking periods, so after talking to those schools about that, we made our own decision to have 2 marking periods instead of 3.” For now, these policies have no implications for the Spring Term: “We’re going to continue having conversations with the SLT team and the administration but as of now, we haven’t decided to change anything in the Spring Term.” 

     Amidst an ongoing debate in NYC on whether schools should reopen past the 3% threshold, we also asked if there were any protocols in place for reopening Curtis and if there were going to be any changes unique to our school considering its previous preemptive closure. “A lot of the protocols on what reopening will look like for middle and high schoolers will be dictated by the DOE,” Mr. Jaenicke said. “Regardless, Curtis will continue to follow whatever guidelines, policies, and procedures are given in addition to taking every possible precaution that we can. We can also expect new procedures for random testing, which will probably be weekly rather than monthly.” In regards to specific changes for Curtis in the future or whenever a positive case arises: “It all depends on how the NYC Department of Health and Hygiene, in collaboration with the Test and Trace Corp and the DOE, determines what the best course of action is. In a lot of cases, there is no action because the person who tested positive has been out of school or in remote-learning.”

     Within the school community, students and staff alike have mixed, but generally positive, feelings about the new changes made to the First Marking Period and the Fall Semester. Osahan Noruwa, a junior, said, “I passed my classes in the First Marking Period and I’m adjusting pretty well to the changes, but I still wish we were at school.” Another junior, Rhoda Wilson, agreed for the most part. “It makes sense, but also not really because it helps in the subjects you struggle in, but for subjects you put your all into, you just get a ‘p’ and it feels like something’s missing.” Esme Mitchell, a sophomore, said “I would have rather had pass/fail grades because it’s harder to achieve higher grades in remote learning than when we were in the building and I think there should be 3 marking periods because it leaves more room to improve. The first semester is going well for me so far and I’m very grateful for the dedication of all my teachers.”

     2020 has truly been an uncertain year for education: remote learning has forced students, families, teachers, and faculty from schools around the world to rapidly adapt to learning from home to prevent the virus’s spread. As the new year draws closer and vaccines begin to enter the public, many hope that 2021 will bring back a sense of normalcy that has been missing since March. “I know it has been a challenging eight or nine months since March, but I am still looking forward to a good 2021,” Mr. Jaenicke said. “I hope that I can lead our school community in a positive way and that I can give all of our students, staff, and families hope that things will be alright and back to normal soon. Most of all, I really want our students to have the full Warriors experience as soon as possible.”