Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher. Photo by Ken Stone

An Assembly Bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, which would allow high school seniors who were on track to graduate before schooling was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic to receive diplomas moved through a committee unanimously Wednesday.

Assembly Bill 1350 passed the Senate Education Committee 6-0 and will head to the Senate floor.

“A high school diploma represents 13 years of hard work and dedication by a student. This achievement should not be denied to a student because an unprecedented pandemic interrupted the final few months of that student’s journey,” Gonzalez said.

In response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order to contain the spread of COVID-19, many school districts moved to distance learning models in March that use online methods. These digital learning tools have not been equally accessible, Gonzalez said, as nearly a third of California students don’t have a high-speed internet connection. This so-called “homework gap” is even more pronounced in Black, Latino and lower-income households.

Given the economic, social and health impacts of COVID-19, many older students have also faced added family responsibilities that detract from their education. This includes taking care of an ill family member, working to supplement the household income, and taking on childcare responsibilities.

AB 1350 would allow school districts or other education offices to grant a high school diploma to students who meet the following criteria:

— Were in their senior year of high school during the 2019-20 school year;

— Were on track to graduate as of March 1, 2020;

— Were not able to complete statewide graduation requirements as a result of COVID-19.

Gonzalez represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County and includes the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista and National City.

–City News Service