School Board lowers graduation requirements for seniors


Katherine Williams

Teacher Valerie Schrag embraces a member of the class or 2019 during graduation in May last year. USD 497 on Monday night voted to reduce the number of credits needed to graduate as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which will close schools through the end of the year although learning will continue online.

By Kenna McNally, Yearbook Managing Editor

Following an upset to the typical senior year, seniors learned on Monday, that the district would be amending the number of credits required for graduation to meet state requirements. 

“We were asked by the State Department of Education Commissioner Randy Watson to look at our number of credits that we are currently offering,” USD 497 Superintendent Anthony Lewis said at Monday’s school board meeting. “We currently require 23. What we want to bring to the board tonight is a motion that will give us the opportunity, for the remainder of this school year, to relax our current required credits from 23 to 21.” 

With the school board’s unanimous decision to lower the number of credits required for graduation, hundreds of students between both Lawrence High School and Free State High School find themselves with the opportunity to graduate early. 

“When I found out I was a little confused,” senior Keely English said. “I just wasn’t sure what all that would entail. Now, knowing a little bit more, I think it’s really helpful that they’re lowering credits.” 

Though the number of overall credits is being lowered, the requirements of core classes have not and will not change. 

“They have to have the required core classes. Seniors have to have four ELA, three in social studies, three in math, one in PE and one in fine arts,” Lewis said. 

The decision to adapt to the minimum credits required by the state came in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The district aims to understand and cooperate with the needs of different students and family dynamics. 

The resolution to the motion to suspend current graduation requirements of USD 497 graduating seniors was passed Monday. 

 “As a result of the Governor’s Executive Order and other actions taken in connection with the COVID-19 coronavirus may adversely impact the ability of students who would otherwise be on track to graduate at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. All credit requirements previously set by the Board of Education which are above and beyond those minimum required credits set by Kansas law or by the Kansas State Department of Education, shall be suspended for the graduating class of 2020,” the motion said. 

Students like English are still contemplating this change to graduation requirements. 

“I haven’t decided if I am going to be taking advantage of it or not yet,” she said. “I would say I’m leaning more towards using the change to my advantage. I’m working two jobs, so I feel like them lowering the credits required is really helpful in that sense.”