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'Overachievers' cut off from attending school

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:22 PM

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Some high school students will go into the 2012-13 school year having to pay out-of-pocket for dual enrollment courses that were previously free and are being told not to return to their school once they hit a certain high school credit limit.

Others are also being offered one less high school class beginning this school year and will be placed in study hall instead.

These changes are the result of the passing of House Bill 7059, which Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said dictates that once students earn 24 credits, they are considered graduates.

That doesn't mean they instantly graduated from high school. He said students still would wait for however long necessary to walk with their graduating class and receive a diploma.

Whereas before, students could accumulate more than their required credits to graduate and continue taking courses throughout their four years, now once they hit their 24 credit mark, they are no longer being enrolled, he said.

"There's no need," Blavatt said. "Why come to school if they've already fulfilled their requirements?

"The real impact is for many of the kids in dual enrollment," he said. "Now if they want to continue with earning their AA (associates) degree, they'll have to pay for those courses themselves to take them through PHCC."

He added that freshmen and sophomores have enough time to make adjustments to the changes, but juniors and especially seniors have to make last-minute scheduling changes.

Assistant Superintendent Sonya Jackson said students who sought their more basic high school graduation requirements likely won't see a problem. But those who take advanced level classes or those that also offer college credit typically surpass 24 credits.

"A lot of our kids are really savvy and are doing what they need to do to stay on track and move forward," Jackson said. "For those students, it almost seems like they're being penalized for wanting to get ahead. But that's because of what the state is doing to us."

Nature Coast Technical High School is the only high school to go from offering seven classes a semester to six — with one class being a study hall. In doing so, Jackson said students won't earn 24 credits as fast.

The move has some parents upset as their teens received their schedules for the upcoming school year.

Parent Jack Garvey said in an email that one of his co-worker's sons, who is seeking his medical certification through one of the Nature Coast's programs, will now be unable to gain that certification because he has 23 credits and will only be allowed to take two courses this year — both core subjects needed to graduate.

"So we punish the kids who strive to succeed and praise the ones that don't care," Garvey wrote. "Yeah, no child left behind! So they would rather have a kid that doesn't have 24 credits go to school for five years and punish my son and others because they wanted to get ahead."

He said he is asking parents to attend Tuesday's 7 p.m. school board meeting to ask the board to look into the matter.

Robert Neuhausen, one of four candidates running for the school board District 4 seat, said he also takes issue with the scheduling changes — particularly in light of his son being placed in five classes and two study halls.

"It's a waste," Neuhausen said. "Looking at the bill, I almost wonder if this bill is being imposed in a way that it shouldn't be — I don't know if they're reading into it correctly. And parents are just now finding out about this, so there are a lot of questions." (352) 544-5271

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