We are running 2.8.5
Regarding notifications of grades being posted. I don't think that I'm missing anything, but I just need to confirm what I'm seeing is correct.
Manual grade items created via the gradebook Categories and Items area do not have an option to send out notifications when grades are entered.
Gradebook items created as activities within the course do have the option to send out notifications to the students when grades are posted.
Thanks, Kim Noseworthy