The federal and state governments have provided relief to many constituencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Monies and programs have helped people and businesses stay or get back on their feet. Paycheck Protection Program loans have been forgiven; the Small Business Administration has given out grants; evictions were banned, etc.

Joshua Brobst of Auburn works on a school project at the Auburn Senior Community Center last Dec. 7. Because of a storm, the Baxter Academy student had no power or internet at his home, so he packed up his laptop and brought it to the center, which was open to the public for power, heat and showers. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

One overlooked group needs relief. Not money, but another form of relief. I refer to high school students. They have had to adjust their lives and try to learn outside the classroom. Some could; others could not.

The standard education model is classes, grades and credits for seniors, juniors, sophomores and first-year high school students. Receive a passing mark and advance or graduate. One thing is missing in this “old school” reasoning. During COVID-19, students have had a historical experience akin to the Depression era or World War II and, to a lesser extent, Vietnam.

I was in seventh grade in 1959. Our geography teacher gave us a map of Southeast Asia, with the assignment to color Vietnam. At the next class, not a single student had located the country on the map. That was the high school class of 1965. I doubt there is a 1965 graduate who does not know where Vietnam is now. Vietnam left an “educational” impact on all of us. But we were not graded on this “education,” even though it had a stronger impact on our lives than four high school years did.

Sometimes there are greater educational activities that overshadow our going to class, such as the once-in-100-years COVID-19 pandemic. High school students have learned more about life than they missed by not having English or math. As of yet, no student is getting credit or relief for their pandemic experience. The question is: What education have high school students lost and what have they gained during the pandemic year? Which will be more valuable in life?

Adjustments were made during WWII so that “the boys” could join the fight. They were allowed to end their high school education prematurely, yet they still received their diplomas, albeit a little early and not quite meeting the customary standards. A greater “education” was at work for them.


I am an early member of the boomer generation. Ninth grade was in junior high school. Tenth grade was in the afternoon from 1 to 5 p.m. at North High School.  Eleventh and 12th grades were in the morning from 8 to noon (Worcester public school system). In-school time was shortened; course requirements were adjusted; some things eliminated because of the extenuating circumstances.

Should we penalize high school students who missed Shakespeare and failed English because they couldn’t get motivated by out-of-classroom internet education during the pandemic? Some high schoolers thrived in the online environment, but many fell down hard. Do the latter deserve to lose a year of their life because the Bard of Avon is of more value than their pandemic tribulation education? What taste will that leave in the minds of these young adults? Maine high schools may be following the letter of the law, but is that really the spirit behind these laws?

So, Maine Department of Education, or whoever the appropriate entity is, why not authorize a new grade of C* (C asterisk) for the full-year classes that were taught entirely or partly online for all high schoolers who did not measure up to the standard grading system? This would let the student receive full academic credit for the COVID year for all required courses and graduate on time. Otherwise, how many lives will be changed permanently? Historians can find other major historical events where adjustments were made at the societal level so the burden was not too heavy on young adults in high school.

Let’s cut our high schoolers some slack! Give them credit for what they have endured. Instead of kicking our young adults while they are down, give them a hand up. There is too much bitterness in the world already. Give them a year’s credit for what they have learned.

Sign me – grandfather of a Maine high schooler.

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