School board reacts to new graduation requirements

Published on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 by Pat Grubb

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Washington state might be getting tighter with its education funding, but that hasn’t stopped state officials from dictating changes at local school districts across the state. The Washington state board of education has approved revised high school graduation requirements effective for the class of 2016.

Blaine High School principal Scott Ellis addressed the school board members at their monthly meeting Monday night and described the changes and anticipated impacts.

Students will be required to take four years of English, a half-year more than what’s currently required. Additionally, a civics course will need to be added to the social studies curriculum, and health and fitness and Washington state history requirements have been revised.

The changes have the potential to impact staffing levels as it means, for example, another 40 to 50 students will need to take the extra English component in their final year. District superintendent Ron Spanjer described the changes as an “unfunded mandate.”

“This is another one,” he said.

Ellis told the board the state has given districts the option to request a two-year extension for the English and social studies changes, an option he said the district should take. He pointed out the high school had reduced math, science and English positions through attrition.

Asked by board member Campbell McCluskey if the district would have difficulty implementing the changes, Ellis replied no.

“I think we’re in better shape than some of our neighboring districts,” he said. “For example, some have only offered three years of English.”

In other district news, there was a changing of the guard. Susan Holmes was elected chair, replacing Charles Gibson, and Todd Berge became vice president. Both are one-year terms. Campbell McCluskey was named legislative representative, a two-year appointment.