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School board to look at alternative graduation dates for SWHS
Unlike graduation gowns, one-size-fits-all may not be the case for South Whidbey High School students in the future when it comes to Graduation Day.
The school board is considering adding two additional graduation dates for seniors who have met all the requirements for earning a diploma. Board members are expected to review a proposal at their meeting tonight to add two new dates for eligible grads.
While South Whidbey High would keep its traditional Graduation Day in June for the commencement ceremony, students who have enough credits could graduate in February, after the end of the first semester. And students who lacked enough credits in June would be able to finish their requirements and graduate in August.
SWHS Principal Rod Merrell said such “rolling graduation dates” are common at colleges and universities. The change could benefit students who are right now looking to graduate early, or those having trouble finishing their senior culminating projects.
He recalled the case of a senior at the high school who faces a real dilemma if she graduates in June.
“She’s trying to graduate by the first of the year because she would like to go to school to become a firefighter,” Merrell said, adding that the student can’t apply to the school until she has a diploma.
The change, if approved by the school board, wouldn’t mean the addition of two graduation ceremonies. Merrell said students who earn their diplomas early would be invited back to participate in the June commencement ceremony. Those who don’t have enough credits to graduate in June, but finished their requirements in August, would be invited to march with the graduating class the following year.
Part of the reason for adding a later graduation date is the fact that some students just can’t finish their culminating project — an intensive research-related state requirement that shows students can meet the challenge of independent learning — in time, despite the prodding of school staff.
“We end up chasing kids around trying to get them to complete their culminating projects,” Merrell said. “And you’re just dragging them kicking and screaming to complete the project.”
“At some point we have to be able to hold the line and holds kids accountable,” he said.
There’s a common theme for some students who won’t focus on their culminating projects, an effort that actually begins in a student’s junior year.
“They don’t think it’s real,” Merrell said. “There are some students who really don’t believe the school would say no you can’t graduate. To them, it’s one other assignment.”
In other cases, however, it’s not for lack of effort. Other students fall behind when their research projects go off the rails because of unforeseen circumstances beyond their control, or the complexity of some projects make it longer for students to wrap up the requirements.
A total of 35 seniors out of roughly 150 students are trailing in having their junior-year project work done, and students who have been behind their classmates have been called to the office to talk about it, Merrell said. The school also sends certified letters home to warn parents, and also uses voice mail and e-mail to notify parents.
Merrell estimated that about four or five students would graduate early if the school board allows the change.
The school board meeting starts tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the classroom next to the library at the South Whidbey Primary campus.