Eligibility policy debated at Conrad School Board

16_grizzliesCURIOUS CUBS  — This photo of two Grizzly bears was taken by the Collins Road on Saturday. The bears were west of the elevator heading south toward the Teton River. They also showed up at the Gus Winterrowd farm just three miles south of Brady.  Photo for the I-O courtesy of Kevin Kellers.





By Adam Jerome, I-O Reporter

Last Thursday, the Conrad School Board held a special meeting regarding the Conrad High School Eligibility Policy.

Close to 30 community members gathered in the CHS Auditorium to express their support or concerns for the year old policy.

After the meeting was called to order, CHS Principal Ken Larson spoke to the audience about the policy and how it came to be.

Larson explained that a large share of the students at CHS were on the DFI list, which tallies students with a letter grade of D, F or Incomplete for at least one class.

School officials also realized that many of these students were in extra-curricular activities and were being excused from classes to travel with their respective groups.

After noticing this trend a special committee was started to examine possible solutions for the falling grades.

Numerous staff and school board meetings were held until the present eligibility policy was constructed in July of last year.

After the explanation of how the policy came into effect, audience members had their chance to express their feelings about the decision.

Concerns about the policy ranged from its effects on special education students to worries that students would no longer enroll in challenging classes because a grade of F would hurt their chances to participate in extra-curriculars.

Llew Jones also spoke to the board regarding his concerns for the policy.

Jones contends through hours of research in educational journals that extra-curricular activities positively correlate with higher achievement in the classroom and at-risk students may benefit most from extra-curricular activities.

The threatened loss of participation may cause the dropout rates to increase, because extra-curricular activities could be one reason that students stay enrolled in school.

Presently, Montana has the fifth highest dropout rate in the nation for students between the ages 16-19.

Parents of children in the high school also had complaints that teachers were not holding up their end of the bargain.

These parents contend that in some cases it was difficult for them to keep up with their children’s grades because some teachers were not posting grades in a timely fashion.  Therefore, parents did not know if their children were close to becoming ineligible.

For the most part, the public comment section was filled with complaints rather than solutions.

Some of the few solutions that were offered involved scaling the policy back to include two probation periods rather than one and only requiring students to pass five of six classes to remain eligible.

There was also a group of people that strongly supported the policy.

It is important to note that 100 percent of the CHS faculty are strong proponents of the policy as it is presently constructed.

The group in agreement with the policy pointed out that requiring students to have at least a D in their classes to be eligible is not asking a lot.

They also argued that students are in school to learn and extra-curricular activities are a privilege not a right.  These students are in high school and the job of the faculty is to prepare them for life as an adult.  Personal responsibility is at the core of becoming an adult.  Students need to realize that their actions have consequences as in the real world.

Larson also raised the issue that when students were asked why they were continually ineligible, to a student they all gave the same answer.  They had not turned in their homework or daily assignments.

It is also important to mention that the present policy is reasonable when compared to other Montana schools.

No school has the same policy.  If there was a perfect answer then all schools would be the same.

Conrad’s policy is actually right in line with other schools.  There are school districts that have easier requirements and there are schools that have more strict eligibility guidelines than Conrad.

After the public comment section the meeting was adjourned.

The Conrad School Board will sort through the information and decide what, if any changes need to be made to the policy before the upcoming school year.