The following is a blog post composed by Michelle Hutchins, the current Superintendent of the Mendocino County Office of Education:
After an especially strange high school experience, the graduating class of 2022 deserves our heartfelt congratulations. In spring of their sophomore year, these students were sent home to attend school remotely, while the world figured out how to deal with COVID-19. Students spent their junior year without in-person events such as dances, sporting events, academic competitions, and arts performances. During their senior year, they were allowed to return to campus but for much of the year, they remained masked and continually reminded of the dangers posed by the pandemic.
Despite all that, they are graduating! If ever there was a class that embodied adaptability and resiliency, this is it. And these traits may just put this generation ahead of the pack as they continue on to college and into the workforce.
Given all they’ve been through, I am happy to announce that in July, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 104 into law. AB104 requires that any student enrolled in their junior or senior year in 2020-21, and who is not on track to graduate in four years, be exempt from all coursework and other requirements adopted by the governing body that are in addition to the statewide graduation requirements.
In other words, local educational agencies (LEAs) such as school districts are restricted from applying additional graduation requirements to a student that would prevent them from graduating on time with their class this June. LEAs must provide a pupil who was enrolled in their third or fourth year of high school during the 2020–21 school year, and who is not on track to graduate within four years, the opportunity to complete the statewide coursework required for graduation.
When we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, it makes sense for local school boards to set high expectations, to elevate education standards above the minimums set by the State. However, this year is different. Students deserve to walk at graduation with their classmates, and if they need to complete a few additional classes before applying to the four-year college of their choice or pursuing their preferred career, we have fantastic instructors at Mendocino College ready to support them.
I know some students are disappointed by the pandemic’s disruptions, and I can certainly understand why; however, there’s no denying that disruptions of this magnitude often bring unexpected opportunities. For example, living in a rural place used to mean giving up jobs that could only be found in major metropolitan areas. Now, the idea of hybrid work environments is commonplace, and students may be able to live in our beautiful, rural county while working for companies based elsewhere. This could radically improve their economic futures.
One of the reasons I ran for the office of county superintendent of schools is because I believe so strongly in freedom, and I define freedom as the ability to make choices. When we provide students with more educational options, they become more engaged. The more students advance their education, the more choices they’ll have: more education brings more freedom.
So, although this pandemic was terrible in many ways and these students suffered some losses by having such an unconventional high school experience, it may be that these students learned lessons that will help them thrive. Let’s get out of their way and see what they can do. Let’s make sure we do not put our own fears and limitations on them. Let’s support them in their pursuits. Let’s encourage them to dream and see where they go.
Congratulations, Class of 2022!