New graduation requirements may cut electives High school courses could be phased out

The state's new high school graduation requirements may mean the Howard County school system will no longer offer such courses as home economics and industrial arts.

"Some of the courses that are currently approved . . . will simply not fit the requirements," Associate Superintendent Joan Palmer said at yesterday's Board of Education meeting. "It's going to be difficult. Some of the electives may phase themselves out."


The new requirements may also mean gym teachers will have to go back to school so they can become trained health educators, Ms. Palmer told the board. The one-credit physical education requirement is being scaled back to a half-credit, with a half-credit health education course making up the difference.

School officials hope to introduce in January a phase-in proposal that would allow gym teachers time to take the courses they need for certification as health teachers, Ms. Palmer said.


The new requirements mean students will take one extra class in science and two extra classes in either foreign language or advanced technology. Students will also have to take a technology education class and meet a student service requirement, which involves either volunteering 75 hours or completing a student service project.

To meet the new requirements, school officials say they will:

* Administer the math, reading and writing functional tests in seventh instead of ninth grade. The change would give students who fail more time to prepare for retests.

* Revamp the course "general mathematics" to include aspects of geometry and algebra.

* Design a curriculum for the technology education class, which aims to teach students to apply knowledge and solve practical problems. Ms. Palmer suggested this class could be incorporated into an existing computer course.

* Design a school system-sponsored service project so students can finish their requirement without the 75-hour time clock.

"We have no money to do this," Ms. Palmer said. "We will put in a program that runs itself, I hope."

In other matters, the school board unanimously gave preliminary approval to place a new Eastern High School in Long Reach Park, a 45-acre site bounded by Dobbin Road, Snowden River Parkway and Tamar Drive. The school is expected to ease crowding at Howard High on Route 108 in Ellicott City and have an enrollment of 1,400 students.


The board also reviewed a 10-year plan by the Office of Special Education to allow disabled students as many chances as possible to take courses in a regular classroom setting.

The plan proposes the school system fill five new positions a year, to include physical therapists, teacher trainers and psychologists, among others. The plan also proposes establishing a partnership with the Head Start program, as well as reserving from 800 to 3,200 square feet of classroom space at elementary, middle and high schools to accommodate disabled students.

Board members, while commending the vision to include disabled students in mainstream classrooms , cautioned that they would have trouble implementing the plan in a time of budgetcutbacks.