January 31, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 41

State modifies graduation requirements

High school graduation requirement changes were among the items passed by the Medical Lake School District board of directors at its Tuesday, Jan. 22 meeting.

The requirements, passed down from the state, go into effect for the class of 2016 and beyond.

In the changes, social studies courses require a half credit more, moving from 2.5 credits to 3. Electives are also decreased by half a credit, down to 5.5, which caused some concern at the meeting.

“Our leadership class is so popular,” Superintendent Dr. Pam Veltri said.

High school principal John McSmith said the program regularly sees 70 to 90 students each year, and is one of the most popular classes at school.

In addition to the course credit changes, the board also approved the ability of students to challenge a course by taking a test that covers the class’s content. The state changed the definition of what “credit” meant, allowing for the change. The argument is that some students could sit in class and not get a credit.

In order to be awarded successful completion of a class, students must earn a passing grade, demonstrate proficiency of content standards and successfully complete a number of hours of planned instructional activity, defined by the district.

Veltri said the high school would need to develop a test if any student wished to challenge a course.

Another policy passed by the board included procedures relating to excused and unexcused absences. Specifically, changes were included in how parents notify the school that a child won’t be in class. Instead of requiring a hand-written note, parents can now send an email or call the school regarding an absence.

“It’s not just a note anymore,” Veltri said.

The school board also unanimously accepted the construction projects at Hallett Elementary and Medical Lake Middle School as complete. Rusty Pritchard from Hill International was at the board meeting to thank the school district for being a helpful partner. He said architects at the middle school worked with Hill throughout the process to fix roof issues at the middle school. As a result, the district will receive extra parts and an extra year of warranty on it.

More work remains at the high school, specifically at the new tennis courts, but that will take place during the spring. All together, nine items will see some work in the spring. Once completed, those items will be brought to the school board for final acceptance.

The board also approved the Teacher Principal Evaluation Program transition plans for the district.

The transition will take place over the next three years, at the end of which Medical Lake will be on the new evaluation system. The state is requiring the transition, and has asked for school districts to pass a transition plan by April or May this year.

“We were lucky, being part of the pilot,” Veltri said. “We’ve had two years to develop this and two years to pilot it.”

January was School Board Appreciation Month, and each school presented a gift to board members in thanks of their work throughout the year.

James Eik can be reached at james@cheneyfreepress.com.

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