A petition started by a Notre Dame High School student to cancel diploma exams is gaining traction.
Grade 11 student Kieran Monaghan’s petition on change.org, which was started Monday, collected over 3,500 signatures as of mid-afternoon Wednesday, and the goal is to reach 10,000.
“These are not safe times to be congregating in large groups and writing diploma exams,” said Monaghan, who will be writing a diploma exam.
“I think what the students should be getting is a full exemption from the April and June examinations, just like they did in Calgary after the flooding.”
He said diploma exams make up 30 per cent of a student’s grade, but in 2013, the marks for Calgary students were made up of assignments, unit exams, quizzes and day-to-day classroom activity, and students could still use their marks to apply to post-secondary institutions.
On Sunday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced that schools were closing to students, diploma exams will go ahead, but provincial achievement tests were cancelled.
On Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney declared a public health emergency for Alberta. Measures include limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people.
“This state of public health emergency that the province has declared, it really vindicates our argument that it isn’t safe for students to be congregating and writing diploma examinations,” Monaghan said.
“I think Minister Adriana LaGrange should be working with these post-secondary institutions and letting them know this is in the interest of public health.”
It’s not about getting out of writing exams, but limiting the spread of the virus, said Monaghan, whose father is a doctor.
Monaghan, who regularly aces tests, said his chemistry teacher quickly reached out to him to provide support after school closed, and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools is working hard to assist students. But online learning may not be available until the end of March, and it can be a challenging way to learn for many students.
Families will be dealing with the economic upheaval of job losses, and not everyone will be able to afford to enrol in test preparation programs for extra help, he said.
“There’s going to be a lot of stress at home, and I just don’t think that examinations are necessary. These are very trying times for Albertans.”
He said students in communities across the province have signed the petition, and the intention is to send it to LaGrange in about a week.
Colin Aitchison, press secretary for LaGrange, said in a statement that at this time, only diploma exams required for admission to post-secondary schools will continue.
“This situation is fluid, and we are currently working with the Alberta Teachers’ Association, school authorities and post-secondary institutions to determine the best path forward for graduating students.
“Alberta Education will provide regular updates as further accommodations are made,” the statement said.