Mayor de Blasio gives an update during a briefing on Tuesday, April 28.
CNN  — 

New York City officials unveiled a new grading policy for students across its public schools on Tuesday, in light of the coronavirus impact on the city’s education system.

The plan, released in a nine-slide presentation by the state’s Department of Education, varies by age and leaves open the possibility of virtual summer schooling for underperforming students.

The goal, officials said, is to keep students engaged during this continued time of remote learning and to provide additional support to students that need it to keep them on track.

“Every student is going to get the help they need,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, adding, students who can’t demonstrate a mastery of their subjects will be assisted through the spring, summer and into the fall, if needed, to get back on track.

Most of the changes affect students whose grades are below passing level.

Students who need to do additional work to keep up or stay on course will “automatically be enrolled in summer programming,” according to the DOE’s plan.

That includes graduating eighth graders and 12th graders, though they will be fast-tracked to work toward an August graduation at the latest.

Across different ages groups, the plan also differs in stringency.

For elementary school students, grades will be assessed on a “meets standards” or “needs improvement” basis.

Middle schoolers have those two benchmarks as well, plus a “course in progress” status that applies to students taking more classes over the summer and into the fall.

Meanwhile, high school students will still receive standard grading during the year, but they will have the option to classify their courses on a pass/fail basis, which means their grades would not contribute to their GPA.

Any New York City high school student will have until January 2021 to complete any outstanding classwork, which includes remote term papers, presentations and exams.

In an effort to “close the digital divide,” the state’s DOE is getting 247,000 iPads to students who requested them to assist with their distance learning programs by April 30, de Blasio said. Families who need iPads and who have not yet requested one can do so by calling the city at 3-1-1 or visiting

De Blasio also said high school seniors – who across the US will not receive their diplomas while walking across a stage due to canceled ceremonies during the pandemic – will be celebrated in a citywide virtual graduation.

“We’re going to do one big celebration of New York City’s high school seniors,” the mayor said. “We’re going to make it something very special.”

In a tweet following the press conference, de Blasio echoed his message to students.

“I want to close with a message to our students: if you feel like you’re going through a lot, we understand,” he wrote. “We’re here to support you every step of the way. I’ve seen firsthand how inspiring and extraordinary you are. We have a bright future ahead because of you. Thank you.”

More details on the virtual graduation will be announced in the weeks to come, he said.

CNN’s Mark Morales and Elizabeth Joseph contributed to this report