Alyssa Pierson placed a sneaker and a sandal on the podium to make a point to the Steamboat Springs School Board about Senior Odyssey.
Pierson, who will be a junior at Steamboat Springs High School, said that like her two shoes, no students were alike. So, she said, the Senior Odyssey program might not be the best thing for every student.
With just weeks before school starts, Pierson said she didn't think there was time for every student to evaluate whether he or she needed to be in the program but that the program as a whole should be evaluated.
Pierson was one of several students and parents to express concerns about Senior Odyssey being a graduation requirement during the School Board's Monday night study session.
School staff and one volunteer defended the program, highlighting the years of process that had been used to develop it. They also question why this requirement had been targeted, instead of parents and students being skeptical about other graduation requirements.
Although the School Board did not vote on the issue, three of the four School Board members present agreed that the graduation requirement could be left in place for this school year, but only if the program had more flexibility to allow students to substitute different experiences for the program.
They were not satisfied with a draft proposal for how to tailor Senior Odyssey to individuals, saying they wanted clear flexibility.
"What I was hoping for was that we would get options," School Board member Jeff Troeger said.
School Board member Tom Miller-Freutel, also one of those three, said he thought there was "absolutely no excuse" for addressing a graduation requirement just weeks before school begins.
School Board member Michael Loomis said he supported the requirement and said he could not think of another requirement that allowed for so much creativity.
Superintendent Donna How-ell strongly encouraged the School Board to continue to make the program a requirement for one year and then evaluate graduation requirements as a whole.
"Taking one request and looking at it in isolation without going through a process I think is very, very poor practice," Howell said.
Deciding that the class was not a requirement just before the start of school would be logistically impossible, considering the teachers who had been hired and schedules that had been made, Howell said.
Barb Parnell, the parent volunteer with Senior Odyssey, said the program gives all students a chance to succeed -- those who usually aren't as successful in school and those who are successful in school.
"They can make this project be what they want," Parnell said.
She said that if School Board members decided to take away the requirement, it would be negating an entire process of developing the requirements and curriculum.
Parents responded that they wanted options that would give students a better shot at the competitive colleges of their choice or would let them pursue opportunities that they wanted to take.
"Nothing should be a one-size-fits-all program, particularly when we're talking about a program like this," parent Mic O'Hara said. O'Hara said he didn't have anything against the program but that children should have options.
Kim Mayer, senior odyssey teacher, said the program provided flexibility. If students already show skills that the classes aim to teach, they have a different action plan or can opt out of some activities.
By looking at just this graduation requirement, "we're opening up a Pandora's Box, and the consequences are immense," Mayer said.
The School Board will decide whether Senior Odyssey should remain a graduation requirement at its Aug. 22 meeting.
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