The class of 2012 at Gainesville High School could walk across the stage with lessened graduation requirements than its predecessors.
Monday night, the Gainesville City Schools Board of Education passed the first reading of a revised policy that would drop the class units required for graduation from 28 to 24.
The first reading of the revision passed 4-1, with only Sammy Smith opposing.
The state requires 23 credit units for high school graduation.
Smith said he is “pretty comfortable” with the system’s requirements being higher than the state, but is open for a discussion.
“I’m open to discussion and particularly from students or families who would be directly affected,” said Smith. “But for now I would like the bar to remain pretty high.”
The proposed policy change comes on the heels of a new graduation rate formula.
Under the new formula, students who do not graduate in four years are not considered as graduates for statistical purposes.
Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the change is correlated with the new formula, but it is mostly to align with state initiatives.
“(The new graduation formula) is part of it,” said Dyer. “The bigger part of it is the new college and career pathways.”
Under the new performance index — the College and Career Ready Performance Index — an emphasis is placed on the transition of students to higher education or the workforce.
The new policy, she said, could benefit both parts of that.
For students looking to stock up on college credit, advanced placement courses will still be available — and students can take as much time as they want to complete those.
“The board has not said they will make anyone leave,” said Dyer. “So someone who wants to stay for more advanced placement, right now, there is nothing to prohibit them from doing so.”
She said the policy will not affect the courses now offered.
But Smith says education is moving toward an open time frame — not just the traditional four years.
Bachelor’s degrees, he said, for example, are “very difficult” to obtain in four years now and the same is true for students at Gainesville High.
He hopes the proposed changes do not turn students away from taking more courses, but would like to discuss the policy openly.
“I want to make sure, No. 1, we don’t lose anyone and No. 2, we don’t intimidate anyone from trying to reach the bar which is set really high,” said Smith. “So, I’m open to a good, healthy debate.”
The second reading will likely go up for a vote at the May 7 meeting.