By Earl Vaughan Jr.
The COVID-19 pandemic is proving costly in a variety of areas, but one I keep reading and hearing a lot about is in the classroom performance of high school students.
I have a deep appreciation for the challenges COVID-19 has forced on the education community, some from a personal perspective.
Like nearly everyone else on the planet, I experienced many years as a student from pre-school all the way to four years of college.
Before I finally settled on the journalism profession, I briefly entertained a career as a teacher, was certified as a junior high and high school English teacher and served an interim stint teaching English at South View High School during the winter of 1977.
I can only imagine how I’d have reacted to being in a traditional classroom setting one week, then learning the next that school was virtually closed, and that I was going to have to teach all of my students remotely while seated in front of a computer screen.
Obviously, today’s generation of students has grown up in the cyber world, so they are certainly more used to coping with that environment than my generation was.
But critical face-to-face interaction between pupils and students is missing in virtual education. That direct link is especially vital for the marginal or underachieving student who needs whatever extra push that’s available to achieve the kind of grades critical for success in this world.
As I noted earlier, there have been numerous reports of students floundering academically because they have not been able to grasp remote learning.
This is an especially troubling situation for high school athletes in the Cumberland County Schools, who are required to maintain a 2.0 grade point average, which was in my day a letter grade of C, in order to be eligible to compete in school extracurricular activities, including athletics.
As we slowly try to turn the corner on the pandemic and get a tiny bit closer to normal life, athletics is one of the really positive things that young people in school can look forward to. It is clearly proven that athletics is one of the best dropout prevention tools available, but if we slam the door on athletics by setting the academic bar too high in these challenging times it’s making a difficult situation worse.
Athletics, with proper COVID protocols in place, offers a chance for face-to-face encounters with coaches and teammates. But if the county athletes can’t maintain that 2.0 average, it’s another door closed to them.
I fully support setting some kind of higher bar academically for athletes to meet. I have long felt the N.C. High School Athletic Association standard that allows athletes to fail a course in a semester grading period and still be eligible to play is too low.
At the same time, especially as we battle the pandemic, I think the 2.0 GPA bar for many athletes is a goal that can’t be achieved.
In the face of all the battles we’re tackling now, I’d like to suggest a change that will help everyone. Instead of requiring a 2.0 average, let’s lower the standard slightly and say that to remain eligible for extracurricular activities, you have to earn at least a passing grade in all of your classes each semester.
That sets a standard higher than what the NCHSAA requires, while still making it a reasonable measure of a student’s overall performance in the classroom.
Let’s at least test drive it for the remainder of this school year. If it proves successful, we can make it permanent. If it doesn’t work, the 2.0 requirement can be reinstated.
At least discuss the pros and cons. In a crisis like this, it can’t hurt to be a little flexible in the name of making things easier for everyone involved.
It came as no surprise earlier this week when officials putting on the annual Carolinas Classic All-Star Basketball Games in Wilmington announced that the 2021 games have been canceled because of COVID-19.
The games annually pit the top senior players from North and South Carolina, boys and girls, in all-star contests held in Wilmington.
Both the N.C. Coaches Associaton and the S.C. Athletic Coaches Association, who choose the teams for the games, will be selecting squads sometime in February and will recognize the honorees even though the games won’t be played.
A total of 10 players will be chosen for each of the four teams.
The Patriot Athletic Conference recently announced its 2020-21 All-Conference cross country team.
South View’s Cooper Wurst was chosen as Coach of the Year on the boys’ side. Bethany Noel of Overhills was named top girls’ coach.
Runners of the year were Octavious Smith of E.E. Smith for the boys and Rainger Pratt of Terry Sanford for the girls.
The boys’ first team includes Smith, South View’s Kamden Payne, Patrick Davis and Jay “Buggy” Benefield. Also chosen were Cape Fear’s Caleb Knudsen, Terry Sanford’s Kellen Ballou and Tucker Davis of Gray’s Creek.
Second team includes Charles Vanderpool and Joel Valentin of South View; Nathan Hamilton, Max Risenmay, James Thiriot and Noah Nihiser of Terry Sanford and Kaydan Harriot of Gray’s Creek.
Making first team for the girls were Pratt, Skylar White of E.E. Smith, Iris Terwilliger of Cape Fear, Tania Wilson of South View, Janiah McNeil of Overhills, Karly Grohe of Pine Forest and Madison Schofield of South View.
The second team includes Vanessa Walcott of South View, Indigo Scott of E.E. Smith, Cheyenne Pavvola of Pine Forest, Aslynn Lupton and Makalyn Wilms of Gray’s Creek and Brinlee Risenmay and Marissa Morris of Terry Sanford.