Diploma exams are optional this fall for high school students, the Alberta government said in a statement Tuesday. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Diploma exams are optional this fall for high school students, the Alberta government said in a statement Tuesday. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Alberta high school diploma exams made optional this fall

Decision will be reviewed by Alberta Education as the year progresses

Students won’t have to write diploma exams in October or November, according to Alberta Education.

In a statement Tuesday, the government said that after listening to feedback from parents, students and teachers, pupils will have the option of writing the exams.

Diploma exams are taken in core subjects by students looking to graduate. They are now weighted as 30 per cent of a student’s mark. Prior to 2015, they made up 50 per cent of a student’s final mark.

“As we continue to listen to students, parents and education partners, it’s clear that some students may not feel comfortable or be in the best position to write exams at this time,” said Colin Aitchison, the press secretary for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

“We know these are challenging times, and that’s why we want to ensure students and their parents have the flexibility to make the best decision for their own situation this exam season.”

Last week, Red Deer public school trustees called on the provincial government to suspend Grade 12 diploma exams for the 2020-21 school year.

While trustees appreciate the decision to make the exams optional, Laurette Woodward, the school board’s vice chair, said a more definite conclusion needs to be reached soon.

“If they have to be quarantined because they either have symptoms, or have a positive COVID test, or they are a close contact, they could be asked to stay home up to 14 days,” said Woodward.

“If that’s the case, they stay home and certainly they are still served by teachers when they are home. What we are hearing from teachers is that there are sometimes gaps in their learning when they return.”

In November, the Red Deer Public Schools board will present a resolution to the Alberta School Boards Association’s general meeting, calling for no diploma exams in the current school year. They hope the backing of multiple school boards will help push the government to suspend the exams and elevate the concern of students.

“It just allows us to work with other school boards to be a stronger advocate. It’s better than one voice, to have many voices saying the same thing,” Woodward said.