Board report: New graduation requirements mean more choice, flexibility for students

High School Class

Students at Winona Senior High School will have fewer required classes to graduate and more flexibility in their schedule to pursue the classes that interest them after the school board on Thursday night approved new graduation requirements. 

Students entering Grade 9 at WSHS next fall will need 21.5 credits to graduate, which is the same amount required to graduate from the Winona Area Learning Center and aligns with state statute. The previous policy required 27 credits to graduate, which is 6.5 credits more than required by the state.

The reduction in credits will allow students more freedom to schedule the classes they want, which could include classes that interest them or classes that align with their post graduation plans. 

“As a parent, I would like my kids to choose things that they are interested in,” board member Stephanie Smith said at the Nov. 18 meeting where the policy was first discussed. Smith said that her son may be interested in a history class, or that her daughter may be interested in an art class, and those interests could be turned into a career. “You’re learning about what you want to do in real life. This is giving them that opportunity to do that their entire high school career.”

It could also mean that students don’t need to take PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Options) in order to meet graduation requirements if they don’t want to. Student board member Ella Skranka said that in order to take both an advanced Spanish class and orchestra, she needed to enroll in a PSEO class after school to fill her English requirement. 

“Having that extra room would be nice,” Skranka said.

Board chair Nancy Denzer agreed. PSEO may be what some students want, but they shouldn’t be forced to take it just to graduate.

“This is a good example of why we would do this,” Denzer said. “So kids can navigate a little bit better at every level and the counselors can help guide (their schedule) and they can take electives that really meet what they are interested in.”

The required credits to graduate include: 

  • 4 credits of language arts
  • 3 credits of math
  • 3 credits of science
  • 3.5 credits of social studies
  • 1 credit of art
  • 7.5 credits of electives, including a .5 credit in health and a .5 credit of physical education. 

BOARD MEMBER STIPENDS: The board approved an annual stipend increase of $300 per member. Currently, the board chair receives $1,500 a year, while the other directors receive $1,200. That amount hasn’t been increased since 2011 and lags behind most school districts in southeastern Minnesota. 

Board members acknowledged the awkwardness of voting to increase their own pay, but those who voted in favor said they didn’t want the lack of pay to stand in the way of someone from running for the board. 

“This little bit of extra money might pay the babysitting for a committee assignment,” board member Steve Schild said. “There might be someone out there who would very much like to become involved in this very important role that this group has. If this little amount of money would make that easier for one person to do it, then I think it’s a good thing, not only for that one individual, but for the community and for the kind of representation that we could get from somebody from whom we might not otherwise hear.”

The total increase will cost an additional $2,260.65 a year. 

DEHUMIDIFICATION PROJECTS: The board also saw an Long-Term Facilities Maintenance Budget (LTFM) that included updates following a previous board decision to issue facility maintenance bonds to pay for dehumidification projects at Jefferson and Washington-Kosciusko elementaries. The board will vote to approve the budget at its next meeting, as well as an official resolution to sell those bonds.

VIDEO: The complete board meeting can be seen at this link.

NEXT MEETING: The next school board meeting will be held Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. There will be two meetings held that night — an organizational meeting that begins at 6 p.m. followed by a regular meeting. Meeting agendas and documents can be found at this link.