Starting Wednesday, Columbia middle and high school students who were passing their spring semester classes March 10 are no longer required to engage in those courses, but they are definitely encouraged to do so.

This is one part of the readjusted alternative learning plans announced Monday by Columbia Public School District through email. The district will resume instruction Wednesday after pausing schoolwork last week.

A pass-fail grading system will replace letter grading for middle and high schools. A passing mark of “P” will be determined by a grade of 60% or higher, while grades below will be marked as incomplete, or “IC.”

Students who did not reach this benchmark by March 31 will have the rest of the semester to raise their grades. Students who reached 60% will receive a “P” mark. They are expected to remain engaged in schoolwork but will not be penalized if they don’t.

The district’s position is that the new grading should not affect college admissions because many universities have stated they will consider the COVID-19 pandemic when assessing applications.

“It is clear that institutions at every level across the country are making similar decisions regarding the elimination of grade reporting,” a district letter to high school families stated.

Advanced Placement and dual-credit students will still receive AP exam preparation and the opportunity for college credit. Dual-credit students will receive a “P” or “NC,” for no credit, for their second semester from Columbia schools.

Letter grades will still be sent to colleges and universities for determination of college credit. Columbia schools will decide these grades based on the completion of work during the second semester. Yearlong courses will factor in a combination of the student’s first-semester average grade and second-semester work to determine the letter grade.

The district also released an online instruction schedule for its middle and high schools.

Elementary school students will continue using paper learning packets and receive more through the mail during the rest of the school year. Fifth-graders will switch to paper packets after initially having submitted school work online.

No elementary school students will be assigned grades this semester. Students will not be tied to a schedule but are encouraged to alternate subjects each day. Teachers will continue giving online feedback and sending mass communications to families.

Columbia Public Schools made changes to its alternative learning plans to limit the district’s expectations of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our first priority, during this time of great uncertainty, is the health and well-being of our students and families,” the district said in the email.

The district will adjust the curriculum for the 2020-21 school year to account for any lost content during this semester.

“We believe this moment in time should not negatively impact a student’s future endeavors,” the district said in its announcement. “Learning will be focused on review, reinforcement and enrichment.”

The district’s school buildings will remain closed in compliance with the city and state stay-at-home orders. The state order right now extends to the evening of April 24.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Education reporter, spring 2020 Studying magazine journalism Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 882-5700

  • Elizabeth Brixey is a city editor at the Columbia Missourian. She oversees coverage of education. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and

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