School officials: More than half of WHS seniors may not graduate

School officials: More than half of WHS seniors may not graduate

WOONSOCKET – One year into the COVID-19 crisis, school officials reported last week that more than half of Woonsocket High School seniors are in danger of not graduating.

Assistant Principal Jeffrey Guiot said during a School Committee meeting on Wednesday, March 10, that approximately 200 members of the senior class face that reality. According to enrollment data maintained by the Rhode Island Department of Education, 350 seniors were enrolled at WHS as of last October.

The startling figure came up during a discussion of efforts to improve students’ grades. Supt. Patrick McGee said the high school has implemented a program that gives seniors the opportunity to recover credits they may have lost during the fall semester.

“We want to make sure our seniors have every opportunity to graduate this year,” he said.

The program will take place in a series of three-week after-school courses taught by Woonsocket Education Department staff. The courses are scheduled over a three-month period, with the first beginning this week on March 15.

“The caveat in this is that for a student to qualify for this opportunity, they have to pass the second semester, their second semester courses,” he said.

McGee said the high school is also offering seniors time during the last period of the day to meet with their teachers.

As of last Wednesday, Guiot said 50 seniors had signed up for the program.

“We spent the majority of the day today reaching out to families to encourage more students to register,” he said.

McGee said the district is also making efforts to target learning loss at the elementary and middle school levels and is using Title I funds to pay teachers stipends to work with students before and after school.

The numbers indicate the pandemic may disrupt the progress the district has made in recent years on increasing its graduation rate. In 2014, the WHS graduation rate dropped to a low of 58 percent before rising steadily to 78 percent in 2019.

School Committee Chairman Paul Bourget told The Breeze he found the numbers “frightening.”

“This is the wake up call. You heard it loud and clear. I certainly heard it loud and clear,” he said.

Bourget said the pandemic has added to a problem already present in the district of high levels of student absenteeism. Students and parents, he said, have fewer checks on them in a distance learning format to ensure they’re showing up to class.

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Bourget also pointed out that while some students thrive in an online setting, many have struggled through distance learning.

“It’s a whole new world, some can do this well, some can’t do this well,” he said.

With the new programs in place at the high school, he said, he’s hoping the numbers will “improve dramatically” over the next few weeks.

“I’ve got to believe by the time we get to the end of the year, I would say most if not all are going to be OK by the time we get there,” he said. “I would be very surprised and shocked if the number of students that don’t graduate is a large number.”

The new programs go into effect as students at WHS prepare to return to full-time, in-person learning. With many of the district’s teachers and school staff receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last week, McGee said he hopes to return students to full-time learning before the end of the school year.

The district is still working through several issues with the return plan, he said, including transportation restrictions and identifying which families would opt to continue distance learning.

“It’s not as easy as just flipping the switch on and saying everyone’s coming back next week,” he said.

McGee said he plans to present a return plan at the March 24 School Committee meeting.


I have an idea...let's lower the passing grade to 40 % and everyone will he's payback time for "feel good" education. All this money for what? COVID just made it happen sooner...

When so many students wake up in the morning, log onto the computer and turn off their cameras and microphones and then go back to bed, how on Earth do we think that they will pass? Distance learning was needed when the pandemic began, but we know it has not worked. I don't know what the solution would be for this school year, but a lot of the blame has to be put on the students themselves. The teachers have gone above and beyond figuring out how to do all of their teaching online, but how much effort have the kids put into it?

Lowering standards , eliminating competitiveness , Giving EVERYONE (participation) trophies instead of only recognizing the best is cheating youth ... The addition of all these socialist courses that are irrelevant to future jobs , while eliminating important courses like history is really hurting kids , teens and even adults ...

my wife is a retired educator...the trend of dumbing down started many years ago and has continued...Covid 19 is an can spend all the money all you will accomplish is bankruptcy for us all...we can't all be on welfare folks..

So how does spending millions on the surrounding fields help education? My question is why the mayor is spending all this money on fields when the education of our public schools is awful......Oh wait I know she has an agenda with charter schools.
Teachers have a lot to do with this too. I understand kids using virtual learning has taken any control away from the teachers but let's face it they never had any control. WHS has a lot of teachers that gave up or not qualified. The majority of teachers are using this time as time off. Time to revamp some of the staff.....not all. It's no wonder private school enrollment is through the roof.

The City Council member drinking beer on WORK TIME is the tip of the iceberg with the issues in Woonsocket.

to the one recommending "lowering" the grades - are you insane? How would that help any of the students for the future? Or was your statement simply sarcasm? to the WED SC - are the students simply "numbers" to you all? Why does the school department have to pay for what is already written into the teachers contracts? Instead of lowering grades - how about we raise expectations - from all - student, teacher and parents? Teach about growth mindsets. Focus on improvement and raise the bar for the students - remember they are our future -
Ask students to try again.
Express unconditional positive regard.
Set achievable but difficult tasks.
Identify causes of poor quality work and offer all necessary resources to improve quality of understanding and performance
Be a role model.
Only praise behaviors that are praise-worthy.
Show your expectations by providing examples.
Stop using gimmicks as incentives.
Ask open-ended questions.
Give detailed feedback.
Be consistent.

I was going to comment on this article.............gut why bother ! Nobody with any SMARTS in ANY government roll will..(1)NOT SEE it or (2) if they do see it WILL NOT READ IT and (3) if they DO read it WILL DO NOTHING about it !

Online learning is extremely difficult and only for the select few. Most colleges understood this and adjusted their curriculum taking all that into consideration. The High school simply didn’t do this. I had a child in honors class getting A’s to Failing. A month into the pandemic she was up till midnight 5 nights a week desperately trying to keep up & teach herself, we were up with her. We begged everyone from top down, teachers and administrators to adjust the curriculum during these unprecedented times. We got a tone deaf response every single time! We were told our daughter would pass with a C grade, lots of students are failing not just her, this two weeks after the pandemic. How on earth does a school system accept this & tell you this is ok? How do they not innovate the curriculum within the limitations of the pandemic? I am absolutely not surprised in the least that this is happening & now they are running around clueless with the same tone deaf response over a year later.
For those of you blaming the students or the parents, your ignorance shines through in your comments. You clearly have no idea what your talking about. Good for you if you’re one of the few having success and you rub every ones face in it. By the way, give the council woman to brake, your just as imperfect as she & you will be caught with your pants down on zoom sooner or later.
My daughter is now a happy homeschooler & we made sure she would be accountable. We have her set up with programs & opportunities that couldn’t exist otherwise.
When you have this much failure it’s the system. We have 2 other kids in k-6 and we have been on top of those kids but it’s been a struggle & we humbly accept we have the ability to make it work but we clearly understand that most others don’t. So if you’re going to comment on these articles, educate yourself first.

I apologize for the lack of clarity. Regarding my comment on lowering the passing grade..I was being very sarcastic...Woonsocket Mom, it all starts at home. This sense of "entitlement" will bring the end of our society as we know it. If you think its bad now...wait until thousands of illegals are dumped across the fruited plain, including Woonsocket, this is the plan. All your talking points are on point...well articulated, well thought out however to do this we need the fundamentals/basics..these kids can't even read!!! It all starts at home. A "nanny" state cannot survive.
Tom Ficca.
Well said.