The Liberty County Board of Education on Tuesday heard an unusual request: allowing a high-school student to graduate in December.
The board tabled action until the Feb. 12 meeting, citing concerns about whether the policy that currently prohibits students from graduating early should be revised.
Liberty County High School Principal Paula Scott presented the request on behalf of a student whom she did not name.
“We have had a request from a student that I think is worth consideration. The student is an athlete who is being sought by numerous Division 1 schools,” Scott said. “He will have completed all his course requirements for graduation by December of 2013, and he desires to graduate in December and start college in January.”
Last week, the Courier reported several football coaches have visited the campus recently seeking linebacker Raekwon McMillan.
Scott said the student and coaches have offered several reasons why he should begin attending school in January: to become acclimated to college; to begin his coursework to prevent having a heavy course load during football season; and to participate in spring practice, which would enhance his freshman playing time and training.
“There are neighboring counties — in particular, I talked to Bryan County and Camden County — that do allow students to graduate early,” Scott said. “I think with the state’s whole policy on ‘Move On When Ready,’ the message we’re getting at the high school is that when students really are ready — they’ve shown that they can handle things academically, they’ve shown that they’re mature — it’s in their best interest to let them move on.”
Two state options, “Move On When Ready” and GAcollege411, which allow students to enroll in college coursework while still technically high-school students, would not be feasible to the student because they conflict with NCAA Division 1 scholarship guidelines, Scott said.
“My personal opinion is that — and I know nobody likes to be threatened — is that if we’re not able to accommodate him, it is likely that he would look at making a transfer. I would hate to see that happen because he’s been our student since freshman year, and … he’s really grown into a fine student for us.”
Scott added that it’s worth opening the door to allowing consideration in the future for other students who may be ready to move on from high school. She later said the rule prohibiting early graduation was adopted locally when the schools switched to block schedules.
The state requires 23 credits to graduate, Liberty previously required 26 credits, but last year brought the number of overall credits to 24. Block schedules allow students to take up to 32 credits.
Board Chairwoman Lily Baker said she wished the board had more time to discuss the policy before taking action, so the matter was tabled until Feb. 12.
Board member Marcia Anderson, however, said that she graduated early and thinks it is a wonderful opportunity for students who may need to supplement family income.
“A lot of kids now need to go to work; you know, their families need help …,” Anderson said. “If the kids have met the requirements, I see no reason not to let them out of high school.”
Verdell Jones agreed.
“In light of the fact that all of these other programs are out there, … it seems like our policy may be a little bit outdated, and we may need to look at making some changes to it,” she said.
Scott cautioned that changing the entire policy without requiring a case-by-case consideration also could prompt many students to leave who may not be ready.
Board member Carolyn Smith Carter said, “My only problem is, if we do it for one, then we have to do it for all … I don’t think we can assume necessarily that somebody is ready or not ready; I wouldn’t want to be in that position to determine.”
In other news Tuesday, the board also:
• Verbally agreed — without a vote — to use Georgia School Boards Association for its superintendent search
• Heard about necessary property modifications at the Airport Road transportation complex and Taylors Creek Elementary School to accommodate the road’s widening