The Juneau School District has increased it’s graduation requirements for the class of 2015.
The board unanimously passed a 23 credit minimum in order to graduate — 1.5 credits more than current requirements.
Those requirements are four credits of English, three science, three social studies, one fine arts (world language can count), three math, .5 work readiness, .5 fitness concepts, one physical education, .5 health and 6.5 electives.
“We’ve been working on this since … it feels like forever,” said board member Mark Choate. “I think it’s a work in progress. There’s going to be more to look at.”
This will be not only an increase in overall required credits for incoming freshmen, but also an increase of a credit of math, a credit of science and a .5 decrease in work readiness.
Before the resolution passed, board member Barbara Thurston asked what this meant for requirements imposed at the schools. For example, Juneau-Douglas High School requires world history and American government for social studies courses.
“Are we approving a specific list of classes or are we delegating that decision to different schools?” she asked.
Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich said currently that’s up to the high schools to decide if specific courses are required to meet the district’s minimum graduation requirements, however, he would like to see the board brought in on those decisions for planning what course material is most important. Courses like Alaska history must be required because of state laws.
Thurston said she’s in favor of developing district-wide course requirements for a set purpose rather than having “hidden” requirements.
Board member Andi Story said pre-algebra courses should count as a math credit. If an incoming freshman doesn’t have pre-algebra down when finishing out 8th grade, they can take it in high school but it counts as an elective, not math.
“They‘re doing math it’s not an elective,” she said. “We want them to be really strong in algebra. I think that that’s a really important distinction.”
Board members discussed the future of physical education. Board member Ed Flanagan had distributed information about Fairbanks schools allowing for .25 credits of PE if a student has participated in a full semester of a sport or other qualified physical activity. Story said if they implement a system like that, it could free up PE teachers to be used at the middle and elementary schools.
Flanagan said reworking PE is something that should be done next year, and added that by allowing students to get credit for participating in sports doesn’t take away the need for the staffing equivalent in the high schools.
The board also got an update on the budget.
Director of Administrative Services David Means said the Legislature did not approve a $100 increase in the Base Student Allocation as was hoped for through the budgeting process. The district had planned on having a solidified budget at this time, but the extension of the legislative session and some active education bills has kept the district budget in limbo.
Senate Bill 84 gives the district $427,000 in state revenues for career and technical education funding, which also increases the CBJ appropriation limit by $98,000. The bill still needs approval of the governor, but has passed both House and Senate.
This means the career and tech ed positions that were going to be lost via the increase in Pupil-to-Teacher-Ratio at the high schools will be restored. The funds also will add a .40 Full Time Equivalent position to JDHS and .60 FTE to Thunder Mountain High School. The remainder of the of the funds would be split among the three high schools to replace equipment, purchase supplies and expand programming.
Means also discussed the state operating budget, which has $20 million proposed in House Bill 108 for aid to be used among all districts in Alaska. If passed by both entities, the district’s estimated share is $737,000. This would be one-time use monies.
Means said the administration has reviewed financial reports for this fiscal year and looked at potential unspent funds. All administrators have been asked to make sure remaining expenditures are “absolutely necessary” and the administration has estimated that $280,000 can be carried forward into the next fiscal year.
Means said he also has increased the estimate for fuel oil as it had initially budgeted $3 per gallon. He said prices are running at $3.79 per gallon, so they’ve bumped up the budgeted amount to $3.50 per gallon for the year.
Means also recommended dropping one classified position at JDHS, which balances classified staff allocations between the two larger high schools. HomeBRIDGE’s supply budget is likely to decrease by $20,000 due to a decrease in students and program support for high school activities cut by $50,000.
Gelbrich said the district is basically on a razor’s edge with the budget. If House Bill 108 doesn’t pass, the district will have to make more cuts to balance the budget. Gelbrich said they’re cutting it close by not only banking on the passage of those funds, but also by spending the forwarded balance from the prior fiscal year, leaving minimal reserves.
The board meets again tonight at 6:15 p.m. in the JDHS library to take a final reading on the budget and discuss its six-year capital improvement project list.
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.