Students in the Waukegan High School class of 2023-2024 may have a different set of graduation requirements than their predecessors with more time during the school day to tend to their studies and less barriers to achieving the necessary credits for a diploma.
Physical education and freshman seminar will continue to be required, but a failing grade will no longer be a barrier to graduation if the Waukegan Community Unit School District 60 Board of Education approves the recommendations crafted as part of the district’s overall equity review.
Board members are scheduled to vote on the policy recommendations made by a committee of staff and community members at 7 pm Dec. 13 at the Lincoln Center administration building in Waukegan to make a final decision after a brief discussion during the board meeting Tuesday.
Eduardo Cesario, the district’s deputy superintendent for academic supports and programs, said the committee has worked on the policy for the past year with intermittent feedback from the board. It is designed to add equity to the path high school students take to graduate.
Under the proposed policy, Cesario said students who feel they need more time to work on their courses can schedule a study hall while those who want a heavier academic load can elect to enroll in an advanced placement offering or an additional elective.
“Some students feel they need more time in school to do their work and study halls will help,” Cesario said. “Some of them work after school or have other activities. We’re adding equity to the policy.”
When Superintendent Theresa Plascencia began an overall review of numerous policies through an equity lens more than a year ago, graduation requirements were one of the subjects on the list to be considered.
Plascencia made it clear Tuesday this particular proposed revision did not come directly from her. She said it was a joint effort of two board members, people from the community and the district’s academic staff.
“We brought the community together and two board members have led this initiative,” Plascencia said. “This is the recommendation from the graduation committee that was part of the goal that was set last year’”
Graduation requirements would be reduced from 23 to 17 — the state requirement is 16 — but physical education requires participation, not a passing grade. Cesario said a failing grade in gym class will impact a grade-point average but not credit needed to earn a diploma.
Freshman seminar, like physical education, will be a participation course rather than one for credit toward graduation. A failing grade will not put a sophomore or junior in the seminar class keeping that student from selecting a course which will count toward a diploma.
“This allows students to take required courses instead of retaking a course like PE,” Cesario said. “This will help the graduation rate.”
If the new policy is adopted, students will still be required to take four years of language arts with writing embedded, three years of math with computer literacy part of it, three years of science, four general electives and one class in either fine art, world language, speech or debate. The number of social studies classes will be reduced from three to two.
Board President Brandon Ewing told his colleagues he wants them to be prepared for a discussion at the Dec. 13 meeting. The vote should not be delayed because administrators must be prepared to proceed with certainty under a specific policy soon.
“I do want to be prepared to vote on the recommendation, yes or no, vote your conscience,” Ewing said. “I have further questions I am examining. If you have them get them in to the superintendent immediately because we want to talk about it and think about it.”