Students will need fewer credits to graduate

Published 9:13 am Friday, August 8, 2008

As the daily schedule for Albert Lea High School students changed from block scheduling to a seven-period day so did the number of credits students could acquire before graduation. The changing number necessitated a graduation requirement adjustment, which the Albert Lea school board passed Thursday during a regular — but rescheduled — meeting.

“It gives them an outline of their requirements so there are no surprises,” said Principal Al Root.

Students at ALHS can earn more credits on a seven-period day than they can through block scheduling, which consists of four classes 80 minutes long throughout the day.

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As the current high school students make their way through the grade levels, each graduating class has a different graduation requirement.

For the 2008-09 school year, students need 50 credits to graduate. Last year, students needed 52 credits. The number of credits is based on the maximum amount of credits students can earn — but it is an attainable number of credits for the average student, Root said.

The average student, according to Root, takes six classes a day with a study hall.

“It allows some leeway in there for students that struggle and need to repeat a class, otherwise it would be a little difficult for students to meet the highest criteria,” the principal said.

High school students don’t necessarily need to have every credit completed in order to participate in commencement, Root said, but commencement doesn’t mean the student graduated.

A senior can participate in commencement for the sake of their family but still have to complete summer school to receive a high school diploma.

Students who had, for whatever reason, dropped out of high school and want to return for a diploma only have to meet credit requirements for the year they would have graduated before dropping out, he said.

Other graduation requirements that changed with the approved policy include standardized tests. Root said the school is getting into the years where students have to meet or exceed standards on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments — series II in math, reading and writing to graduate.

Previous years had to meet standards on different statewide standardized tests.

Students and parents will receive information on graduation requirements in the student handbook and through advisory classes.

Root said the policy passed Thursday should be set until another class schedule restructuring. Block scheduling existed at the high school from 1995 to 2007. Last year was the first in more than 10 years to have a seven-period day.

In other business, the school board:

– Approved the disposal of surplus and unusable equipment from throughout the district. There will be a rummage sale from noon to 6 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at Brookside Education Center to dispose of the items. After the rummage sale, staff will go through the equipment for personal use. Equipment left over after the sale will be scrapped for metal or brought to the landfill.

Items for sale include desks, tables, chairs, a couch, chalk boards, cabinets, a freezer, cots, stage curtains, welders, kilns, printers, a gym ball rack, a pipe cutter, sinks, a 1995 Ford Aerostar and a 1992 Ford F-600 with a lift.

There will be 248 monitors, 194 computers, 22 boxes, four printers, four projectors, three switches and one television that will be disposed of properly due to hazardous waste requirements. This will be paid for by health and safety funds.

– Approved the termination of all conditions and reservations connected with a quick-claim deed for a property in Manchester.

In the 1950s, a township school was transferred to Manchester as part of the Common School District No. 136, which is now part of the Albert Lea School District.

Manchester wants to use that property, according to Superintendent David Prescott, as part of its sewer project and asked the school district to remove itself from the deed.

Tabled approval of the district improvement goal until further discussion is had. Three plans for student improvement were offered. The goal will be discussed at a school board workshop at 7:30 a.m. Monday.

– Approved the concept of the Leutholds Incentive Program. People can enroll in the incentive program, and 2 percent of the purchase would go to the general fund of the Albert Lea School District. Leutholds would make payments to the district’s general fund on a semi-annual basis.

The store hopes the incentive plan will be adopted by other local businesses, according to a letter sent to the school district.

– Approved school board filing dates. Three members will be elected to the school board for four-year terms on Nov. 4. Filing for candidacy begins Aug. 26 and ends at 5 p.m. Sept. 9. Chairman Ken Petersen, Vice Chairman Bill Villarreal and Treasurer Bill Leland are up for re-election.

– Approved a nonresident agreement for one student to transfer to the Glenville-Emmons School District and one student to transfer to Houston Public School District from Glenville-Emmons.

– Approved a joint-powers agreement with Minnesota State University-Mankato for the post-secondary education option. This sets up the possibility for students to take classes at Mankato.

Set a truth in taxation initial hearing for the public at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 in the District Board Room at Brookside Education Center. A continuation hearing, if needed, is set for 7 p.m. Dec. 9 in the Board Room.

– Approved a contract for the 2008-09 school year for physical and occupational therapy services with the Albert Lea Medical Center. The physical therapy rates increased $4.50 an hour and the occupational therapy rates increased $3 an hour — which makes rates comparable to rates at schools in other areas.

Set a pay schedule for hourly employees for the 2008-09 school year. Hourly staff received a slight increase within the 2 percent increase that is standard across the district. The new rates will take effect Sept. 2.

– Approved pay rates for Community Education employees and instructors, per the recommendation of Director Chris Chalmers. A pay raise for some staff was included.

– Approved special education para-educator work calendars for the 2008-09 school year. Two calendars were approved — one for Early Childhood Special Education through sixth-grade and one for the middle school, high school and the Area Learning Center.

– Approved the Elementary Student Handbook for the 2008-09 school year. No changes were made from last year.

– Approved renewal of annual membership with South Central Service Cooperative. The membership fee was the same as last year.

– Saw the development, adoption and implementation policies for first reading.

– Approved the Drug-Free Workplace/Drug-Free School Policy, which was not changed.