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SCHOOL BOARD BACKS DOWN ON 3-COURSE MANDATE

Dec. 3, 2002- The Board of Education has decided to make exceptions to its requirement announced earlier this year that the territory's public high school students must take three new courses in order to graduate.
According a release issued Tuesday by the board, which sets the curricula for the schools, students who are unable to take any of the three required courses — Developmental Reading and Writing, Speech, and Computer Literacy — will be granted a waiver of the requirement.
However, the schools must make an assessment "of those students' abilities" by April 30 and submit it to the board. "This assessment is necessary to provide baseline data, and it shall be kept confidential," Jorge Galiber, board chair, said in the release.
Students can substitute other courses "to make up the credits for graduation," including advanced placement courses, he said.
The board specified six years ago that high school students would have to take the three new courses. However, the requirement was not implemented until last year, and when it was, Education Department officials obtained a waiver for the Class of 2002. (See "Mandated new courses could hold seniors back".) Now, the same thing has happened for the Class of 2003.
In October, the St. Thomas-St. John district superintendent, William Frett, termed the requirement an "unfunded mandate" and said a lack of classrooms, teachers and technological equipment would make it impossible for more than a third of the district's seniors, which would be about 180 students, to take the courses by next spring.
On St. Thomas, many parents, teachers and seniors protested the imposition of the requirement for students in their last year of high school. Two weeks ago, a meeting of the 12th grade Parent-Teacher-Student Association as Ivanna Eudora Kean High School was called to discuss the situation. At the meeting, Gladstone Hazel, PTSA president, said the group might seek legal action if the board's handling of the matter was unacceptable.
It was pointed out at that meeting that Developmental Reading and Writing course does not exist at Eudora Kean. (See "New-course objections aired at PTSA meeting".)

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