Members of the Steamboat Springs School District's graduation requirements committee decided Thursday that they need more time to prepare a recommendation for the School Board.
As the committee continued its discussion about several issues, including the Senior Odyssey program at Steamboat Springs High School and possible changes to foreign language instruction at the elementary and middle school levels, members said they have not had adequate time to assess large amounts of data or to voice numerous concerns expressed by students' parents.
A public forum scheduled for Nov. 29 to discuss high school graduation requirements, including the Senior Odyssey program, has been moved to an undetermined date. The forum likely will take place before Dec. 20.
"We're being asked to do the work of two years in six to eight weeks," committee member Robin Crossan said. Crossan is the parent of an eighth-grade student at Steamboat Springs Middle School, and she is president of the Education Fund Board.
Committee members agreed that another meeting is necessary before conducting a public forum. That forum originally was scheduled for Nov. 29. The committee instead will use that date for its next meeting. The public forum likely will be held before Dec. 20, when committee members plan to finalize their recommendations for changes to district graduation requirements.
Those recommendations will be given to Superintendent Donna Howell, who will present them to the School Board in January. Any final decisions about graduation requirement changes will be up to the School Board.
On Tuesday night, committee members debated the flexibility of the Odyssey program, a mandatory yearlong program designed to help seniors prepare for life after high school.
Some students and parents have said the Odyssey program prevents students from taking traditional academic courses. Supporters of the program say counselors and high school staff work with students to accommodate their scheduling needs. Odyssey classes are offered every period of the day.
Crossan asked high school Principal Mike Knezevich to state how many of the 160 seniors requested schedule accommodations this year and how many of those requests were approved.
"One hundred-sixty and 160," Knezevich said. "I say that in all seriousness. There is not a class at the high school that provides more differentiation than this class."
Knezevich said there are "a myriad of options" for Odyssey scheduling, including taking the first semester of Odyssey online or simply taking a full load of classes.
Many seniors, Knezevich said, have an expectation of registering for the minimum number of classes they need to graduate and finishing their school day by 2 p.m. That expectation may lead to "tough choices" for seniors, he said.
A comment period focused on Odyssey is expected to take up a large portion of the public forum, and committee members agreed to pool their comments before receiving input from the public.
"I think we need to take a pulse of where this committee is," said Mark MacHale, principal of Strawberry Park Elementary School.
Committee members also discussed the district's foreign language curriculum. Changes to that curriculum will be proposed to the School Board at its Monday meeting.
Middle school Principal Tim Bishop said his proposal to the board will include three full years of a foreign language for all middle school students. Sixth-graders will take a year of Spanish, he said, and then they will be allowed to decide whether they want to take Spanish or French in seventh and eighth grades. Those two consecutive years of a foreign language will apply as a full credit on high school transcripts, Bishop said.
At the elementary level, MacHale said he will propose that third-, fourth- and fifth-graders continue to take two, 20-minute Spanish classes a week, but with improved instruction.
Teachers will be trained in teaching Spanish, he said, and students in other grades will receive "sponge time" language immersion -- such as simple vocabulary -- incorporated into other disciplines.
"We will monitor (the Span--ish instruction) and make sure it is put in correctly," MacHale said.
The graduation requirements committee includes district administrators, parents, teachers, a former student, a School Board member and community representatives.
Howell formed the committee to review high school graduation requirements -- last reviewed during the 1999-2000 school year -- and to make recommendations for changes, if needed.
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