School board grapples with mandates from Olympia

By Ian Ferguson

 

Starting in 2019, Washington state students will need more credits to graduate, and Blaine school administrators are considering asking for a two-year waiver.

schoolboard

From l., Blaine Middle School teachers Brandon Glanzer, Aime Nadeau and vice principal Cabe Vanderyacht pose with school board director Todd Berge. Glanzer, Nadeau and Vanderyacht were recognized for completing the National Board Certification process.

Speaking at the school board meeting on November 24, Blaine High School principal Scott Ellis and superintendent Dr. Ron Spanjer told members  the new standard is logistically challenging.

The current state standard is 20 credits and will rise to 24; Blaine High School already requires 22 credits. Although students need minimum credits in certain subjects, several elective courses allow some flexibility. Ambitious students can earn as many as 24 credits over four years.

Students who fail or drop a class early in their high school career struggle to gain the required credits in time for graduation. Requiring 24 credits would exacerbate those difficulties without major restructuring.

“I have a master schedule in my mind of how it would work if we were to implement it next year, and it isn’t pretty,” Ellis said. “In terms of space, staffing and scheduling, I don’t see us being able to fulfill these requirements in time for this year’s eighth grade.”

Statewide, administrators are considering solutions such as expanding class time, dividing the day into more periods or adding credit options for eighth graders. However, it’s unclear which methods will work, or if state law would permit them.

“For instance, dividing the day into seven periods instead of six would add credits, but each credit hour would be shortened. Will the state allow that? We don’t know,” Spanjer said.

Because of these uncertainties, an option is available to waive the requirements for one or two years. School districts seeking the waiver must send an application to the Washington State Board of Education. Ellis and Spanjer said they would meet with other principals and superintendents to see how other districts are handling the transition, and return with a summary update in January. The school board will decide sometime in early 2015 whether to apply for the waiver.

The credit mandate is just one of several that will make 2015/16 a challenging year for school districts. Others include smaller class sizes,  all-day kindergarten and new teacher/principal evaluations. Administrators point out the new requirements have all been imposed without state funding.

Business manager Amber Porter anticipates the budgeting process will be longer than usual as the district struggles to adapt to the requirements.

“It’s going to be challenging. We may have to put through a budget with a lot of question marks and fill them in later when we have more information,” Porter said.

In other district news, the board recognized Blaine Middle School teachers Aime Nadeau and Brandon Glanzer and vice principal Cabe Vanderyacht for achieving National Board Certification, an advanced teaching credential.

These teachers have worked very hard, and we’re proud of them,” said Blaine Middle School principal Darren Benson.

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