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Gainesville City Schools lowers graduation requirement

POSTED: April 14, 2014 8:56 p.m.

Gainesville High School students now need only 23 credits to graduate, down from 24 last year and 28 just a few years ago.

The school board approved the change by a 3-2 vote Monday night, aligning the Gainesville school system with Hall County and state minimum requirements.

Supporters of the change argued that it was needed so transfer students could graduate on time.

There are about 50 transfer students in 11th and 12th grades at Gainesville High School, according to school officials, and many could potentially be forced to attend summer school or fall through the cracks altogether if required to make up the additional credit.

“What if it was your child?” Superintendent Merrianne Dyer asked the board in a plea to draw its support.

School officials said many students would continue to take extra course units despite the change, but that wasn’t convincing enough for some board members.

“I feel like it’d be dumbing down who we are,” said board member Brett Mercer, explaining why he voted against the change.

Board member Sammy Smith, meanwhile, said he was unconcerned about how not approving the new credit requirement could negatively impact the system’s graduation rate, calling it merely a “statistical point of contention.”

“We should be touting that we’re more rigorous ...” Smith added.

Board Chairwoman Maria Calkins called the credit reduction a technicality that won’t change the rigorous standards city schools apply, and urged her fellow board members to approve the new policy.

But the debate over principle and perception was ultimately swayed by board member Willie Mitchell.

Mitchell said he was willing to sacrifice the board’s public image if it meant not letting a single student miss his or her graduation timeline.

Vice Chairwoman Delores Diaz said she felt lowering the standard was akin to pushing kids out the door, but despite these reservations, she was convinced by Mitchell to support the change.


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