Students interested in Advanced Placement courses and athletics at the high school should check the student handbook at the start of the next school year for updated, stricter policies approved by the Old Rochester Regional School Committee on June 6.
Although the practice was adopted four years ago, students who take an AP course will find that the handbook next year spells out the policy that there is no option to drop out of an AP course. Once you’re in, you’re in, said Principal Mike Devoll, so students need to commit to AP classes with eyes wide open to the scope of the commitment.
The practice was adopted, Devoll said, for several reasons.
“It’s expensive to run AP courses in terms of training teachers, the supplies needed,” said Devoll. “If it’s a science class the labs are expensive … so we found four years ago … students dropped AP courses at far higher rates than other courses.”
The changes in schedule that resulted from students dropping AP courses, Devoll said, “It was really wreaking havoc.”
The school wants to be as transparent as possible, Devoll said, and clear in its expectations of AP students. Students and their parents are encouraged to investigate before committing to AP, and options for summer work are available for students to make informed decisions before taking on AP courses that they must stick with.
“We allow level changes (in other courses), but for AP courses there is no level to drop down to,” said Devoll, explaining the need for the policy.
In addition, a new policy was adopted that increases the academic threshold for eligibility in participating in athletics, especially in sports that make cuts.
Up until now, students were required to pass only five classes in order to participate in school sports. Now, they must pass six classes to be active in school athletics.
Passing a class means a minimum number grade of 65.
“We found that our current threshold was not substantial enough,” said Devoll, saying that athletes could fail three of their classes and still play sports, but not anymore. “And that didn’t sit right with anyone at our school. We felt that was too low of a benchmark for a student to clear to be eligible, for failing three classes. We don’t feel like your attention should be directed onto the athletic field. It should be [directed at] the classroom.”
Students now must pass six classes, failing no more than two. Most students take seven classes, said Devoll, adding, “Failing two or more classes, really, I don’t think those students should be representing our school at that time until they get their grades in order.”
With sports that make cuts, Devoll said, “It’s not appropriate to cut a student in favor of someone who has poor grades [in that term]…. It’s not fair to make a cut knowing that the student in all likelihood is going to be ineligible when report cards are issued in April and so we cut a student in favor of someone who isn’t passing … six classes.”
Another change Devoll presented pertaining to auditing classes simply added a bullet to the existing student handbook language, clarifying that audited classes are graded as either pass or fail, and Devoll wants students to realize that colleges will view that “pass” as a number grade of 65, a detriment to the student in the long term.
“An audit is not a great option for a student who is seeking competitive colleges, so we try to discourage an audit and that’s why,” said Devoll.
Over at the junior high, student handbook language will now include ‘vaping’ devices in its smoking policy, which previously only mentioned e-cigarette use in addition to combustible tobacco products.
Also, the personal device policy has been made stricter. Students used to be able to keep their cell phones on their person during the day but had to keep them powered off during school hours. Now, students must leave their cell phones in their lockers during the day.
The junior high reports that cell phone use, in particular the game “Fortnight,” has become a major distraction for students, with visible upticks in bandwidth use at the school as a result of students sneaking access to their cell phone, particularly during bathroom breaks.
“We still grapple with technology,” said School Committee Chairman Tina Rood. “This is the yin and yang of this tool that we have.”
The next meeting of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for September 12at 6:30 pm in the ORRJHS media room.
Old Rochester Regional School Committee
By Jean Perry