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School Board OKs New NHS Graduation Requirements

After Assistant Superintendent of Schools Linda Gejda recommended a course of dealing with upcoming state high school graduation requirements, the Board of Education unanimously voted on Tuesday, January 7, to increase requirements for the graduating classes of 2018, 2019, and 2020.

 During the school board’s December 3 meeting, Newtown High School Principal Charles Dumais outlined possible needs and ways to meet the state’s 2020 graduation requirements.

In 2010, according to Mr Dumais, NHS students needed 20 credits to graduate; this year’s graduates need 22, and students in 2020 will need 25 credits.

To gradually make changes before 2020, Mr Dumais recommended the school board vote to increase NHS graduation credit requirements to 23 for the Class of 2018, 24 for the Class of 2019, and 25 for the Class of 2020. For the change to be effective for the Class of 2018, Mr Dumais explained the school board would need to vote on the decision by this month to allow students signing up for classes as freshmen in the 2014–15 school year to plan accordingly.

Dr Gejda, based on meetings with the school board’s Policy Committee following Mr Dumais’s presentation, recommended on Tuesday that the school board increase graduation requirements by one for the next three years and add world language class requirements to the board’s graduation policy, to meet the state’s Secondary School Reform requirements.

While world language credits are not currently required, Dr Gejda said many students already take world language courses to meet college expectations. School board secretary Kathy Hamilton pointed out that adding world language credits as graduation requirements would most likely not effect the budget based on how many students already take world language courses.

As passed by the school board the Class of 2018 will need to take one world language credit and have 23 credits overall, the Class of 2019 will need to take two world language credits and overall have 24 credits to graduate. Before passing graduation requirements for the Class of 2020, the school board agreed another look at the distribution of credits would have to happen.

Also during the meeting, the school board unanimously approved a donation from Travelers Insurance Company, and unanimously approved the implementation of a “comprehensive school climate assessment instrument.”

According to a memo sent to members of the school board by Dr Gejda, the Newtown Public Schools Safe School Climate Committee recommended the district use a Comprehensive School Climate Inventory, produced by the National School Climate Center, to survey students, parents, and staff members. The memo also explained that the district’s current survey format would be replaced by the, “new, more comprehensive instrument that is in alignment with national standards of school climate.”

The costs associated with the instrument, results, and analysis, according to the memo, is $9,850.

Another memo, also sent from Dr Gejda to members of the school board, outlined the recent donation by Travelers Insurance Company to Newtown Public Schools to offer a program for children called “First Tea,” which, “has developmentally appropriate lessons and equipment for the instruction of golf at the elementary level,” according to the memo.

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