Cape Elizabeth High School juniors may get 'a little more freedom'

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CAPE ELIZABETH — While updated graduation requirements won’t go into effect until 2021, there could be a policy change affecting junior class privileges as soon as this spring. 

The School Board policy committee met Jan. 13 to discuss graduation requirements and the state proficiency-based diploma system. The committee proposed that the proficiency-based system will take effect starting with the Class of 2021.

All students graduating before then must meet Cape Elizabeth’s standards, which combine the state’s requirements with the board’s. Students must complete 230 credits, including 125 credits specified by the state. 

Graduation requirements will be discussed further by the board in February.

The policy committee also discussed junior class privileges and students’ use of unscheduled class time.

The senior class now has an open campus; seniors are allowed to sign out during free time, or “frees,” and leave school. Members of the junior class proposed that they be allowed the same privilege.

“We’re hoping for a little more freedom with what we can do with our free time,” junior Natalie Vaughan said. 

The committee discussed allowing juniors the privilege of having early dismissal if they have no class at the end of the day. They chose this over allowing juniors to sign out at any time they had “frees.”

“If I were to phase something in, it’d be (leaving early),” Cape Elizabeth High School Principal Jeffrey Shedd said.

There are three times when seniors use their privileges to sign out. Those with first period study halls can come into school later in the morning; seniors can leave during lunch, and end-of-the-day study halls allows seniors to leave early.

These privileges require parental permission; Shedd said 85 to 90 percent of students take advantage of leaving during “frees.” Parents have not yet been consulted about junior privileges, but will be before a final decision is made.

Juniors are now allowed to sign out of study hall, if they’re on honor roll, but are not allowed to leave school grounds. Students can either go to the cafeteria, the achievement center, or the library.

Vaughan said these aren’t always good options because the spaces are often crowded, and the cafeteria is closed in the afternoon. She said many juniors would like to sign out at the end of the day and go home. She said it would give students more time to do homework.

Members of the policy committee said this increase in freedom could help prepare students for college, where they’d have to manage their own time and schedules. 

“I like the idea of a gradual increase in responsibility,” School Board member Barbara Powers said.

The policy change will be discussed at a February board meeting. The policy committee said it would like to have the change in place by the fourth quarter of the school year, so Vaughan and others who worked to make the change can enjoy the outcome.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.