The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin

District aligns grad requirements with state Standards

A seven-period day will allow students more elective options


WAITSBURG—In an attempt to retain students who might otherwise attend Running Start or SEATech, as well as address budgeting issues, the Waitsburg High School Board of Directors unanimously approved aligning Waitsburg School District graduation requirements with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) requirements at its April 18 board meeting.

OSPI alignment

The move was made to allow room for additional electives that may be more appealing to students. The change will also allow the District to avoid replacing the teaching slot vacated by high school health and life skills teacher Nancy Bickelhaupt who will retire with the end of this school year.

Both Waitsburg and OSPI require 24 credits to graduate. The difference is that the OSPI requirements are more general while Waitsburg has required specific math, science and social studies classes, as shown in the chart on Page XXX. Waitsburg has historically required students to take health as well as Life Management Skills (LMS), which were both taught by Bickelhaupt.

The removal of the LMS requirement, which teaches life skills such as buying a vehicle, purchasing a vehicle, and completing rental agreements has met strong objection by many. Bickelhaupt spoke passionately about the importance of preparing students for life beyond high school and said the District has always prided itself on high standards for its students.

“We were awarded the Gold Standard Award in financial literacy because we have such strong financial literacy in our requirements. Now you’re talking about settling for what the state of Washington has . . . Our kids need this information. You may eliminate my position but I think it’s a travesty to be a minimalist school district and I don’t think eliminating financial literacy is the answer,” she said.

Students Kevin Murphy and Melany Lane-Laudenslager appealed to the board on the importance of the practical lessons they learned in LMS.

“The biggest complaint about the school system is that it doesn’t teach people how to live. Everyone in this room has used the skills taught in this class. As far as it not being a required class, I do not believe that children, high schoolers, have the drive to acknowledge they need these things,” Murphy said.

High School Administrator Denise Winnet previously told the board that WHS alumni repeatedly list LMS as the most important and relevant class they took while in high school.

“I just want to say that because we’re aligning with OSPI does not mean that a class like LMS can’t be taught. The schedule that was submitted to us has a class like that. It’s not that it can’t be offered. If we replace Nancy’s position, we have to cut someone else. It’s a really hard decision. Where else can we cut?” said board member Christy House. “We’re not doing this because we don’t want LMS, we’re doing this because we don’t want to lose a person.”

House commented that the skills taught in LMS and health can also be incorporated into other classes such as math, science, fitness and FFA.

“I have faith in our teachers that whatever is decided we will not give our kids minimalist education. Because a decision is made that doesn’t go a certain way doesn’t’ mean that’s how it ends up. We can always make course changes. Hopefully, this is a malleable situation and I believe our staff will rise to meet the needs and give our kids the education they need to be successful,” said board chair Ross Hamann.

Board member Lisa Morrow said that students should have more options and the class should not be required. She also said that by providing more periods in a day, students may choose to take LMS as an elective.

Master Schedule

High School Principal Stephanie Wooderchak presented a draft master schedule for grades 6-12, developed by a committee that has worked on the project for over a year. The new schedule also allows for more electives.

The schedule consists of a seven-period day beginning at 8:30 and ending at 3:13, with 50 minute periods and a 30-minute lunch.

“Our goal is to get this approved so that teachers can write up class descriptors so that kids can leave school knowing what the classes are that they are taking for fall. We think that will keep them in District rather than them not knowing all summer,” she said.

Among the new offerings is Cardinal Serve, a 9th grade leadership/service class taught by Roseann Groom. Mr. Elder will offer a yearbook class that could include a school newsletter and he will also offer a debate/journalism class. Mrs. Abel will teach a 3D printing class, small engine repair and welding/woodworking. Gabe Keifel will offer a sports anatomy class and the new math teacher will teach a small business exploration/finance class. Liv Leid will offer a Sci Fi Fantasy/Social Communication class to 10th – 12th graders.

Through a previous survey, students had expressed a strong desire for creative and art-related classes. Mr. Leahy will teach an art class as an option for 7th and 8th graders, though Wooderchak cautioned the board that art classes tend to be very expensive.


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