Willmar Senior High spring grading policy adjusted for distance learning

The Willmar School Board approved an adjustment in grading policy this week, a response to the upheaval in students' academic lives caused by the shift to distance learning.

Willmar Senior High School file photo taken Feb. 4, 2020 Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — The Willmar School Board has voted to revise its grading policy for senior high students this spring.

The coronavirus pandemic caused Gov. Tim Walz to order the state’s schools to close and instruction shifted to distance learning in March.

The Minnesota Department of Education said if policies or handbooks are changed, school boards should approve those changes, Superintendent Jeff Holm said at the Monday meeting of the Willmar School Board.

The district is adjusting how it grades at nearly all levels, he said, but Willmar Senior High is the only school with a specific policy.

High School Principal Paul Schmitz distributed a set of new guidelines to the board Monday. The Minnesota Department of Education issued guidelines last week, and they fit well with those Willmar had already developed.


High school leaders early on discussed a Pass/Fail option, “but we didn’t want kids to have Fs,” Schmitz said, so they changed it to Pass/No Grade.

Grading will not change for College in the Schools, Advanced Placement and Project Lead the Way courses.

The proposed changes for the remaining courses give teachers options for students who may have struggled with the transition to distance learning or had limited access to the technology they needed.

To get a Pass grade, students need to have completed 60% or more of the coursework and met the teacher’s standards.

Students who dropped a course with permission from the principal will receive a W for withdrawal. This was done by some seniors who did not need the class to complete graduation requirements.

Teachers can also give students an X for extended time. That’s a placeholder grade to give students more time to finish their work.

“We have teachers who are going to extend the school year, offer virtual summer school for kids,” Schmitz said.

The board also voted not to have students and teachers make up a snow day at the end of the year.


Holm had previously asked the board to set a policy of always making up missed days during the school year or at the end.

The district had two snow days during the year, and one was already made up.

“I remember qualifying it, ‘unless something really unusual happens,’” Holm said. “I would say we are in unusual territory.”

The district will follow its school calendar with the last day for students on June 3 and the last day for teachers on June 4.

Jeff Holm, Willmar Superintendent

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
What To Read Next
Get Local