Lawrence school board to consider reducing graduation requirements with switch to remote model

photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence Board of Education meeting room at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, is pictured in this file photo from Feb. 25, 2019.

The Lawrence school board on Monday will consider reducing high school graduation requirements for the current school year to help seniors graduate on time amid school closures for the coronavirus pandemic.

The school district currently has a requirement for high school students to earn 23 credits to graduate. But the board will consider reducing the requirement to 21 credits, the state’s statutory requirement, for the current school year.

“To assist USD 497 2020 senior students during this closure, we propose that 2020 senior graduation requirements be moved from the current USD 497 23 required credits to match the 21 credits required by KSDE,” school officials said in a memo to the school board.

If approved, the change in credits would come from reducing the amount of elective courses students are required to take. The requirements of core courses — English language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education and fine arts — would remain the same.

Current graduation requirements (23 credits)

(1 semester = 0.5 credits)

• 4 English credits

• 3 Math credits

• 3 Science credits

• 3 Social Studies credits

• 1 Physical Education credit

• 1 Fine Art credit

• 8 Elective credits

The proposal comes in light of Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday ordering all school buildings closed for the remainder of the spring semester as cases of COVID-19 continued to increase in the state. The closure has required school districts to plan new instruction models, with many planning to use virtual school options.

A state task force on Thursday issued guidelines to the school districts that give a general outline on how they should educate students for the remainder of the school year. The Lawrence school district is expected to roll out its plan soon in order to resume instruction on March 30, district officials previously said.

Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said Thursday in a news conference that most school districts have graduation requirements that surpass the state statute. He said it would be a local decision to reduce them down to the state’s requirements amid the pandemic.

“What you might see school boards do for this senior class (is) to waive their current graduation requirements and go to 21 (credits),” he said. “That’s optional and that’s a local decision. But they would have to meet the state requirements of 21 credits for graduation.”

The board will meet 6 p.m. Monday at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Full agendas can be found on the district’s website, usd497.org. As part of plan to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the district is encouraging people to watch the meeting on Midco Channel 26 or via live stream at www.youtube.com/USD497. If people want to make a public comment to the entire board but do not want to attend the meeting in person, they can notify deputy board clerk Dawn Downing by 5 p.m. on Monday. Downing can provide patrons with a link to provide comments via Google video or teleconferencing. Downing can be reached via email at DDowning@usd497.org.

The district also announced that the board’s agenda has been changed to reflect that only the graduation requirement issue and consent agenda items will be considered. All other items that originally were scheduled to be considered by the board have been deferred.


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