WAITSBURG - Waitsburg School District will be joining schools across the state in dropping the culminating project as a graduation requirement. Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that eliminated culminating projects as a statewide requirement, beginning with the class of 2015, and instead allowed the determination to be made at the district level. At their May 14 meeting, the Waitsburg School Board voted unanimously to drop the requirement.
Superintendent Carol Clarke shared with the Board that Waitsburg staff had discussed the issue and expressed to her that they would like to drop the culminating project - better known locally as the "senior project" -- requirement.
"They do this reluctantly," said Clarke. "They believe it was a valuable tool and opportunity for our students but believe it needs to be done because if we maintain it, students may choose to leave our district for another district that won't require it." Clarke said that Dayton and Touchet intend to drop the requirement, Pomeroy plans to retain it and she had not heard from other districts.
The State Board of Education began requiring culminating projects with the class of 2008, but Waitsburg had adopted the senior project requirement over a decade earlier at the suggestion of former principal Dan Butler.
Butler presented the idea of senior projects to Waitsburg staff in 1993 as a way to address an identified "lack of focus and expectations by the senior classes of our high school." In addition to educational benefits received by the student, the projects were seen as a way to, "get the community involved with the school and provide our students a chance to give something back to the community in the form of community service."
High School Principal Stephanie Wooderchak said that the Senior Comp. class would still be included in the schedule, but as an elective rather than a requirement. That class could include a senior project - possibly scaled down from the current version - as well as instruction on scholarships, college applications, etc.
The only concern expressed by the Board was regarding the potential elective class. Board member Greg Zuger wants to insure that parents realize that their students will be graded on a student project if they take it as part of the elective course, regardless of whether or not it is a district graduation requirement or if other students are completing a project.
The motion to drop the culminating project requirement passed unanimously and Clark said she would bring updated district graduation requirements to the next meeting.