Board votes to lower needed credits for certain schools

County education officials have made it a little easier for students attending Del Norte County's court and community schools to graduate from high school.

Four members of the Del Norte County Board of Education on Thursday voted to decrease the number of credits students at county Office of Education schools need to receive a high school diploma. Board member Jennifer England was absent.

Previously, students attending both county and district schools needed 220 credits to graduate from high school, according to Del Norte Superintendent Don Olson. Now students attending county schools are required to earn 210 credits to graduate.

The board's decision applies to students attending Bar-O-Boys School, Elk Creek School and McCarthy Alternative Education Center, Olson said. The action does not apply to Castle Rock Charter School, he said. Students at Castle Rock, Del Norte High School and Sunset High School are still required to earn 220 credits to graduate.

Decreasing the number of graduation credits for the other schools brings Del Norte more in line with other California counties, Olson said. Many require their students to earn only 130 credits to earn a high school diploma. Olson noted that many students transfer to Del Norte from other counties.

Currently California requires students to take three years of English, two years of math (including algebra), two years of science, three years of history and social science, one year of visual arts, a foreign language or a career technical education course and two years of physical education to earn a diploma. Olson recommended the board add that students attending county Office of Education schools take at least 80 credits worth of electives courses to graduate.

"Making graduation more attainable is what the rest of (the state's) county offices have put in place," he said.

Board President Frances Costello said she would prefer students take four years of English instead of three. But, she added, if a student were to leave one of the county schools to go to Del Norte High School he or she would have to comply with DNHS requirements. Students at DNHS are required to take four years of English. Students at DNHS, Sunset and Castle Rock are also required to take geometry to graduate.

Suzie Dooley, principal at Sunset, Elk Creek School, Bar-O-Boys School and McCarthy Alternative Education Center, said she viewed the board's decision with mixed feelings. She said she thinks it's important for students to take four years of English, but she also understood the need to help children graduate from high school. This need is especially important for students at Bar-O, many of whom have criminal backgrounds, Dooley said.

"The idea to be able to send them back with high school diplomas is huge," she said. "But I also have feelings that (county students) should be offered the same quality education of any student in the district."

Dooley suggested that the board consider making geometry an elective for county Office of Education students. She added that when meeting with representatives from other continuation schools in the state, she found that Sunset is one of the only schools that requires its students take geometry to graduate.

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