School board studies new requirements

School Board discusses new state requirement that calls for 24 credits for graduation

Staff writerApril 30, 2014 

The Peninsula School District is figuring out how to approach several new education initiatives that developed from the most recent legislative session.

At a special study session April 22, the district and members of the board went over a draft of the district’s strategic plan and discussed how to tackle a new 24-credit graduation requirement.

Also up for discussion is the future of the senior culminating project at the district’s three high schools.

In March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed off on Senate Bill 6552, which requires 24 credits to graduate starting with the class of 2019 — today’s seventh-graders. The minimum requirement statewide is now 20 credits.

The 24-credit requirement is born out of an earlier effort to require 1,080 hours of instructional time. In 2009, the Legislature set aside $97 million to implement the 1,080-hour requirement, but school districts told the Legislature that the switch was difficult.

“We were panicking about how ... to get to 1,080 hours,” Peninsula School Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto said.

The new bill lets districts calculate, on average, about 1,027 instructional hours per year instead of 1,080 for seventh to 12th grade. The Peninsula School District is at about 1,040 hours, Cuzzetto said.

Right now, the change is a few classes away, but the district and the board hopes to get ahead of the game by implementing changes early.

Board President Harlan Gallinger said he feels graduation rates statewide might drop in the wake of the new law.

“I would rather us be a district that comes out leading the charge on making this work,” Gallinger said.

Although the hour requirement is eased, it still exists in the shadows. While there may not be a strict amount, shoehorning in an extra few credits still means, possibly, elimination of programs and longer days.

Board member Wendy Wojtanowicz said support from the district’s guidance counselors will be critical. She worries, also, about how longer days will change the climate for after-school programs and sports.

“I think the long day is going to be a tough one (for students and staff),” said Claudia Thompson, academic officer.

SENIOR PROJECT

One change the district is discussing is the culminating project. In the bill, the culminating project is no longer a state requirement. That isn’t cause for student celebration just yet because the district can decide whether to keep the senior project as a requirement.

Academic officer Dan Gregory has scheduled a meeting with high school principals and staff members to discuss options for the district.

Wojtanowicz said she sees the benefit of a final project that allows students to reflect on their years in school before heading into the workforce or college. Cuzzetto said he sees pros and cons. For his daughter at Peninsula High School, the project was a “really great experience,” but he also sees students under a lot of pressure.

The school board will next meet for its regular meeting at 6 p.m. May 8 at Discovery Elementary library.

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