‘I was an A/B student all last year’: Families, school board react to NHCS failure rate

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County Schools released a report from the first quarter of the 2020 school year, when all students were learning online due to the pandemic. The numbers are raising concerns for both parents and school board members.

Of the more than 26,000 students in New Hanover County Schools, the district says almost 4,500 were failing at least on class at the end of the first quarter.

One middle schooler shares his own frustrations when he looks at his grades.

“Hectic and hard, because you don’t know what to do in some classes,” Trask Middle School 8th grader Xavier Alexander said.

Alexander says remote learning has been a struggle for him, causing him to fail a few classes the first quarter of the semester. That’s the toll the pandemic has taken on him and lots of other students.

“I can’t sit home with him and watch him to make sure he’s doing his work” Alexander’s mom Jessica Scarborough said. “I can just go by his word of , ‘Yes, he’s doing his work.'”

Scarborough works full time, so she can’t be home all day to make sure remote learning is going smoothly.

“I’m thankful enough his teacher reached out to me to say, ‘Hey, how can we get this fixed,'” she said.

According to the presentation the district shared at the school board meeting Tuesday night, more than 35% of middle schoolers and more than 29% of high schoolers were failing a class at the end of the first quarter.

“We didn’t see a strategy in how they intend to fix that,” Bob Lockerby, who has two fifth graders, said. “We heard an analogy that, ‘Hey , this is like being down at halftime in a game, and we’re going to come back and win it. I don’t think it really works that way.”

Lockerby is also concerned by those numbers. When he saw them, he says he wanted to know why somebody didn’t intervene sooner.

“Somebody has to know this,” he said. “This couldn’t have been something that just came to light to somebody, either at the school or the staff level. It’s unclear what actions were taken then, or what action will be taken now.”

School board member Nelson Beaulieu says it’s going to take better communication between teachers, administrators, families and students to create a stronger learning environment.

“Nobody’s guilty,” Beaulieu said. “We’re all responsible. We all have to step in. We all have to fix this. It’s a community problem. It’s a county problem.”

Also startled by the numbers, Beaulieu says this is the first tangible evidence of the impact the pandemic has had on education.

“We’re, right now, in the middle of a major hurricane, and we hear the damage. Last night, the eye passed over and in a sense, it was the first chance we had to really see the educational damage. This is an educational pandemic.”

Tuesday night, the school board talked about making the lowest possible grade a student could receive a 50%, lowering the numbers of credits needed for graduation and bringing seniors at risk of not graduating back to school four days a week.

“We actually had to have one of his teachers give him a paper packet for him to actually physically write down the information because he can’t do it remotely,” Scarborough said.

Scarborough says they’ve been trying whatever they can to keep their heads above water, but her son is begging to get back in the classroom.

“I was an A/B student all last year,” Alexander said. “Now my grades are slipping because of it. But hey, I’ve got to try my best just to do it.”

Beaulieu says they plan to talk about some of the potential changes in the coming weeks, but no word of when they could be put not place.

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