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Principal at San Diego's largest high school 'pauses' decision to cut honors classes

Principal Michelle Irwin says the district is trying to get away from classifying courses and to remove the stigma associated with non-honors classes.

SAN DIEGO — After public outrage including a new Facebook page of Patrick Henry High School parents with more than 500 members, and a protest at lunch on Wednesday, the principal at Patrick Henry High School decided to pause the decision to cut honors classes.

“We do want to get more input from our parents and students before we make any definitive changes," said Michelle Irwin, the Patrick Henry High School principal.

More than 2,000 students attend Patrick Henry High School, it being San Diego’s largest high school. 

On Wednesday, dozens of students skipped lunch and protested Principal Irwin’s decision.

The students say admissions officers want to see that students can handle harder classes like honors courses, and the grades they make in those classes are worth more when tabulating their GPA. 

Back in February, the principal emailed parents, telling them she was cutting the course for equity reasons.  She pointed to the racial disparity between honors and non-honors courses.

Principal Irwin says the district is trying to get away from classifying courses and to remove the stigma associated with non-honors classes.

But students who protested at Patrick Henry High School on Wednesday say they need these honors classes, and they’re academically competing against students at other schools who have them.

The district says Patrick Henry is still offering some honors courses and advanced placement classes.

However, what's the difference?

For Advanced Placement, or AP classes, students have to pay for them and take a test at the end of the course. If they do well enough, they can earn college credit.

Students say honors classes are the steppingstone between regular classes and AP classes. Taking an honors or AP class can raise a student's GPA because the A's and B's they make are worth more than a regular class’s ‘A’ or ‘B’.

Honors Physics and Honors English are cancelled classes. That means students who struggle and those that excel will all be in the same class. 

Students and parents say, one or both of those groups will not have their needs met in the shared class. And students say they don’t know how it’s going to work, since they already had to pick classes for next year, without the honors classes they had wanted. 

Melbourne Romney is one of two students who started a petition that now has more than 2,000 signatures.

CBS 8 told him of the principal’s decision when he got out of school. 

“We want some more clarification with how she's pausing it,” said Romney. “What she wants to do…It sounds like she used some ambiguous language.”

That lack of communication and transparency is what upset many families. Even after the principal’s announcement to put it all on hold, they are still cautious.

Principal Irwin will host two Zoom meetings about the honors and advanced classes. 

The Zoom meeting will be on Thursday, April 21 from 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. and on Friday, April 22 from 9 a.m. - 10 a.m. To join the Zoom meeting, visit here.

CBS 8 will be on those Zoom meetings and bring you the latest updates.   

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