Helena School Board members discussed three new policies and revisions to five others at a work session Tuesday night at Rossiter Elementary. Topics ranged from student attendance to field trips, graduation requirements to student and family privacy rights and discipline to search and seizures.
The policies around field trips, graduation requirements and search and seizures generated the most discussion.
New, state-required language in the field trip policy says a person with a current, valid American Red Cross standard first aid card or equivalent must be present on all field trips. Bus drivers often meet this requirement, but those drivers don’t always stay with the student group and aren’t present when classes take walking field trips.
Trustee Cherche Prezeau said the district would be well served to encourage staff to become certified.
The high school graduation policy has some language changes, but the majority of the board’s interaction was centered around the 21 credit requirement to graduate, which is the minimum by state accreditation standards.
“Shouldn’t we be setting our bar higher for our students?” asked Prezeau, who has been outspoken about her unhappiness with current graduation rates.
Michael O’Neil, board chairman, said the flexibility serves students in the district well and expanding the minimum would have some consequences.
Trustee Libby Goldes said the topic was discussed last year and it was determined that having the requirement number low provides more opportunity for students who struggle to graduate. It also doesn’t prevent excelling students from far exceeding the 21 required credits.
“I worry it’s a stamp of mediocrity,” Prezeau said.
The board discussed searches and seizures as they pertain to people, vehicles and electronic devices.
Police need probable cause to do a search, but school officials only need reasonable suspicion. They can search lockers, cars, backpacks and electronic devices if they are being used inappropriately (such as for cheating or cyber bullying).
The board will take final action and public comment on the policies at next month’s meeting scheduled for May 8.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/IR_AlanaListoe