California parents, students protest high school's plans to cut honors classes for equity reasons

All 11th-grade History and English honors courses at the school were set to be eliminated

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Hundreds of San Diego parents and students last week protested a since-withdrawan plan to remove 11th-grade honors classes at the city's largest high school for equity purposes, according to local reports.

An email from Patrick Henry High School (PHHS) Principal Michelle Irwin dated April 13 says all 11th-grade History and English honors courses at the school will be eliminated, following a decision by the school last year to eliminate Advanced World History, Advance Physics, Advanced Biology and two other classes for gifted students, according to The San Diego Tribune.

Patrick Henry High School in San Diego

Patrick Henry High School in San Diego (Google Maps)

"We are eliminating the 11th grade English and history Honors courses. This change will bring our English and history course offerings into alignment with what is currently offered at PHHS in 9th, 10th and 12th grade," a document attached to Irwin's email, obtained by The National Desk, reads. 

As of Tuesday, however, those honors classes were restored following conversations with the school community.

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"We will continue to offer our current series of Honors and AP courses. In addition, we are excited to announce that Patrick Henry will participate in a district pilot of ‘Honors for All’ course options in grades 9 and 10 to offer more opportunities for our students to earn weighted credit," Irwin said in a Tuesday email to parents. "We will reach out to our rising 11th graders and parents in the upcoming weeks to solicit information regarding their course preferences for the 2022-23 school year."

A view of the city skyline in San Diego, California.

A view of the city skyline in San Diego, California. (Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg)

Irwin continued: "We are proud of the work taking place at Patrick Henry High School to support district goals of increasing student access to challenging course offerings while ensuring high expectations for all. I would like to apologize to parents who interpreted this work as lowering the academic standards for students. I want to be clear that Patrick Henry students are some of the best academically in all of California, and we plan to continue this legacy of excellence."

A section of the document Irwin sent to the school community on April 13, titled, "Rationale For Changes," stated that the since-withdrawan changes to curricula would help "create more balanced heterogeneously grouped classes; eliminate stigma," and "provide a well-balanced course offering for all students."

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"Our goal is to have students from all ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds represented in our courses. A variety of factors including access to education, adult bias, and a person’s self-generated identity contribute to the inequities we currently experience," the document continues.

San Diego Unified School District signage is seen on a Navistar International Corp. school bus.

San Diego Unified School District signage is seen on a Navistar International Corp. school bus. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg)

The move prompted hundreds of students and parents to protest last week. More than 2,000 people signed a petition on Change.org opposing the changes. The school then held two Zoom meetings after the protests last week to get input from parents.

"[H]ere at Henry, we're very proud of all the work that we're doing to support our students and to align our goals with our district goals by expanding student access to rigorous coursework," Irwin told KNSD. "We also recognize that we have students and parents who have concerns about the direction we're going, therefore we're going to pause a little bit and get more input from parents as well as students because we do want to make this a collaborative effort."

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Neither Irwin nor the San Diego Unified School District immediately responded to Fox News Digital, but district spokesperson Mike Murad told KNSD that the school would be pausing the change "after hearing from students today and parents recently who had questions."

Murad added that the pause will allow school members "to continue the discussion on how to best enable each student to reach their full potential academically."