Healdsburg High School Principal Bill Halliday introduced a proposal to alter some of the graduation requirements for the class of 2021 for Healdsburg High School and Marce Becerra Academy students in light of COVID-19 and the difficulties of distance learning.

“Last year we talked about the graduating class of 2020 overcoming an immense amount of hardships on their way to their graduation diploma and good on them. A huge majority made it to the final end and received their diploma, and then you look at the class of 2021 and they’ve kind of doubled down on those hardships,” Halliday said.

The class of 2021 has experienced a different disaster each year of their high school career including fires, floods and now a pandemic.

“This class too has been through fires and floods and power outages and evacuations and by the time we get around to their graduation they’ll be out of school for 13 months of instruction, 13 months of sports, 13 months of community building and being a part of the thriving community we have here at Healdsburg High School,” he said.  

“We believe it is essential of us to provide these students an opportunity, who are in jeopardy of not graduating, to earn their diploma and we’re very much committed to striking that balance between our high standards as a district and also being rational and realistic about the challenges that our students have faced and how some students aren’t going to fully overcome those challenges.”

To help students who are struggling the high school is proposing to waive the community service graduation requirement for this graduating class.

Halliday said records indicate that many students have completed their community service hours and continue to fulfill those volunteer hours, however, he said it would be a good idea to waive the requirement for the class of 2021.

The high school administration is also considering giving students who need help the option of creating an individualized graduation plan (IGP).

An IGP would be brought to the school board (in a closed session meeting) who would then consider which requirements could be waived.

A student with an individualized graduation plan would still be held to the state graduation requirements.

“Students who need an individual plan will be presented to the school board of trustees on a case by case basis with the rationale as to why any of the following requirements would need to be waived:

● One course of English (to match the state minimum of 3 years)

● Third course of Math

● Third course of science

● One course of language other than English or visual performing arts or career technical education, rather than all three

● One course of Freshman Seminar

● One course of Junior Seminar

● Elective credits

Halliday said not receiving a high school diploma can be a life changing experience for students.

“Some of our students who are in jeopardy of not receiving their diploma is (because) of conditions out of their hands, they are conditions that they didn’t have any control of and we believe strongly that we cannot victimize our students,” Halliday said.

Marce Becerra Academy students typically need 210 credits in order to graduate. Halliday said some Marce Becerra students would be “hard pressed” to get to 210 in light of the recent challenges amid COVID-19.

The suggestion is to change the requirement to 180 credits for the class of 2021 for Marce Becerra.  

“That does include the state minimums of three years on English, two years of math including Algebra, three years of social studies, two years of science both life and physical, two years of physical education, a year of language other than English or visual and performing arts, two years of career technical education — a Healdsburg unique requirement — a year of advisory, and two years of junior and freshman seminar, or electives for support classes,” Halliday said.

This would total up to 180 credits. The state minimum for credits is 130.

“We don’t believe we have to go to the absolute state minimum for Marce Becerra because our students have actually really accelerated their credit earning this year,” Halliday said.

School board President Aracely Romo-Flores asked what the high school’s plan is for helping freshmen and sophomores who are struggling.

“I want to commend you (all) for bringing this to the table, because I agree, a high school diploma is crucial for their success so it is really important that we are having this discussion… But I also want to get ahead of the game and really want some discussion or presentation about what we are doing for our juniors, sophomores and freshman and I’m really curious to know what we are doing to support all of our students who are struggling now,” Romo-Flores said.

Healdsburg Unified School District Superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel said school administration will bring a more formal presentation on the subject to the board of trustees at a future meeting in February.

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