Board extends alternative credits for graduation policy

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PUSD first revised its policy of allowing high school students to take classes outside the district on July 13, 2020, when the pandemic forced a move to distance learning and more families petitioned for flexibility in coursework. On Wednesday, the Board unanimously agreed to continue the policy going forward. (Although the policy has been “evergreened,” the board can at any time decide to revoke the option.)

According to Superintendent Randy Booker’s memo to the board, there were 97 students who submitted requests to take off-campus courses this past year: nine in 9th grade, 23 in 10th grade, 26 in 11th grade, and 39 in 12th grade. The students took classes across the curriculum in computer science, math, science, English, the arts, social studies, world languages, PE, and a handful of electives. 

Proponents of the change who called in to the meeting said the flexibility has allowed students with learning differences to do well during distance learning, allowed for schedule flexibility, and was a way to address learning loss during the pandemic. “It’s very important for students to achieve potential and this flexibility is going to help them maximize their potential,” said Hari Titan. 

Booker said that expanding the program has led to a small increase in students requesting to graduate early. According to district data, five students have made such requests — four to finish by the end of the first semester of their senior year and one by the end of the junior year. Booker said there were pros and cons to this outcome — students can move ahead in coursework but it could result in missing out on four formative years of high school. 

PHS and/or MHS students must still take a minimum of five classes in PUSD and get prior approval from the high school principal before enrolling in an outside accredited school. 

Misc: Board aiming for in-person meetings in June; correspondence update

School Board President Cory Smegal said she is talking to the city about when and how the board will be able to resume in-person meetings but is hoping for June. She noted that virtual meetings have allowed for a high level of public participation and would like to work on ways to keep that level of engagement going. 

Trustee Megan Pillsbury said the board had received 60 emails since the last meeting, most in response to the media coverage around the “white student” group issue and negotiations around the addition of more in-person elementary hours. She said there were also emails about swastikas found at the high school, letters in favor of extending the alternative credit policy, a letter from the tri-school parent clubs, and thank you correspondence for extending the in-person secondary school hours this spring.

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