Students no longer have to be enrolled at their high school for their entire junior and senior years to be valedictorian or salutatorian in Hall County, thanks to policy changes that will take effect this summer.
"We have found that we have many students who are able to accelerate their high school curriculum," said Terry Sapp, educator on special assignment for Hall County Schools.
"This year at East Hall (High School) we had one of those students, who— we call it ‘jump' — into the senior class and still meet the criteria for valedictorian or salutatorian."
She said these students complete grades ninth, 10th and 12th, but skip their junior year.
East Hall Principal Jeff Cooper said final grades were posted early this week. The 2011 valedictorian, Stephen Pope, and salutatorian, Peter Truong, were members of the class of 2011, but the second salutatorian, Victoria Webb, "jumped" into her senior year.
Sapp said because of curriculum changes, including some at the middle school level, students like Webb are able to earn high school credit early. But as the policy reads now, these students who skipped their junior year were unable to be honored as valedictorian or salutatorian, no matter their grade-point average.
"The policy was revised, and it now has to lie on the table for at least a month," Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said. "The only revision is that it says, ‘last two years of their high school career' instead of junior and senior years."
Schofield said the changes would not affect students who choose to attend college during high school.
"I think three times in the last 10 years we had students who would have been valedictorian or salutatorian if they hadn't gone to college," he said. "If you chose to go to college for your last two years, it was well understood you couldn't be valedictorian or salutatorian."
Sapp said from her experience, parents and community leaders wanted students who jump ahead to receive all possible recognition for their accomplishments.
"We're about rewarding acceleration and achievements, not about punishing them," she said.
Sapp and Schofield said this is the first time they are aware of that a student who skipped a year was eligible for one of these top academic honors.
"The new transitions are starting to collide, so this is really the first time we've had to face this situation.
And it's a good situation to face," Sapp said.