Budget woes force graduation changes

POLK COUNTY -- It will take fewer credits for high school students from Monmouth-Independence, and possibly Dallas, to graduate beginning next year.



POLK COUNTY -- It will take fewer credits for high school students from Monmouth-Independence, and possibly Dallas, to graduate beginning next year.

Central and Dallas school districts recently trimmed -- or are in the process of trimming -- their graduation requirements, citing budget cuts and potential overcrowding in classrooms as factors.

"In order to maintain a (full) schedule, it's necessary," said Brian Green, Dallas High assistant principal.

Central approved on March 7 cutting that district's graduation requirement from 25« credits to 24«; Dallas is considering reducing its requirement from 26 to 24.

"It really frustrates the hell out of me," Paul Evans, a Central School Board member, said recently. "The symbolism of this ... we're just going closer to what the state says the bare minimum is."

The Oregon Department of Education requires 24 credits in different subjects -- math, English and science, to name a few -- to earn a diploma.

Central High's new requirements will be phased in with entering freshman students this fall. Principal Sylvia Warren said the school has lost nine teachers in the last three years -- which means fewer classes to put bodies.

Students will have the ability to take up to 28 credits if they desire; those who opt for the minimum level will likely begin school during second period or end their school day a period early, Warren said.

"For the longest time, we've had more graduation requirements than the state requires. But with reduced funding, we can't continue to do that," Central Superintendent Joseph Hunter said.

Cutting a credit means the possibility of cutting course offerings and the staffing that entails. Levels and areas for cuts -- like whether or not it will come from electives -- have not yet been determined, Hunter said.

"It's what we think is necessary," Warren told the school board during a recent meeting. "It's not what we think is best."

Not only would Dallas High see changes under its proposal, so would its honors and extended campus diplomas, dropping two credits each to 26 and 32, respectively.

Juniors and seniors in the Dallas district would have an open period each semester. Those could take place at any point of the day -- leaving some students with up to 90 minutes of free time, Green said.

Because of the high school's block schedule, students wouldn't have an open period on consecutive days. Dallas has already proposed cutting three high school faculty members next year.

Central and Dallas aren't the only area schools to curb graduation requirements in response to budget problems. Salem-Keizer School District recently announced it would switch from an eight-period school day to seven periods in 2011-12.



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