GREENCASTLE -- Students expelled from Greencastle High School will now have a chance to earn some of the credit they miss while out of school.
The Greencastle Community School Board voted 4-1 Wednesday evening to accept a plan proposed by GHS principal Randy Corn to allow expelled students to earn two credits per semester online. The plan would also allow, at the principal's discretion, up to four credits each term.
The courses must be taken through an accredited institution and cost of the courses will not be footed by the school corporation.
The idea was debated at length during Wednesday's meeting, with a number of arguments for and against the new policy.
Corn's initial idea, though, is that while an expulsion should serve as a punishment for a student, it can also be extremely detrimental in taking the student off track for graduation. A student who falls behind his or her classmates seems to be much more likely to not finish high school at all.
"We have students who get expelled who we ought to try and keep on track for graduation," Corn said.
Others echoed this sentiment, both in the administration and on the board.
"I think it's our duty as a school to educate these students and keep them on track to move on with their class to post-secondary school," said GHS Assistant Principal Russ Hesler. "It's our obligation to help get them there and figure out how to do it."
"I agree with Russ," said board member Mike Dean. "We need to do everything we can to further their education and get them on to a post-secondary school."
The discussion followed, though, of how many courses should be allowed. Corn initially proposed just two. He did so because the worst subjects for students to fall behind on are math and English and because of the existing school policy for online courses.
"In looking at the Greencastle policy on taking online courses, there is a limit on that, and I did not think we could override that at this time," Corn said.
Board and administration agreed, though, that the existing online policy applies mainly to students already taking a full course load in GHS classrooms. In the case of expelled students, additional courses might not impose such a burden.
GHS teacher Nicole Kempf expressed her concern of allowing too many classes to be taken online by expelled students. The possibility of taking six or seven courses removes one of the deterrents for getting expelled as well as depriving students of the education experience only a classroom can provide.
"I don't want teachers to become obsolete," Kempf said.
Kempf's concerns were echoed by others, but board member Kelly Lewis also said he was concerned about graduation requirements in general. He did not want to make it impossible for kids wanting to go to college to get the 47 credits needed for a Core 40 diploma.
In the end, the board decided two classes would be a good baseline to begin, but that students could petition the principal to take two additional courses. The principal can agree if he sees a compelling reason.
"To deny the student the Core 40 diploma is to deny them substantial opportunity, so I think that could be a compelling reason," Corn said.
Board member Jack Berry also pointed out that four courses could be a heavy load. These students won't be in for a free ride.
"Four would be a load. It would be a lot of time in front of the computer," Berry said.
In the final vote, Berry dissented, mainly because he felt the decision was being made too quickly. He said he would have liked to give the administration more time to review the proposal.
Middle School Principal Shawn Gobert also brought up the cost of online courses as well as Internet access. He said many students wouldn't be able to afford to take advantage of the new policy anyway.
In the end, though, the decision hinged on giving students the ability to better themselves, even if they cannot do so in a classroom.
"I don't think as a society we do any good with a kid sitting home watching (TV) all day," said Dean.