SRHS students put learning to work

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By John Barnhart

    A group of Staunton River High School (SRHS) students made a real world application of what they’ve learned in government classes.

    Thursday night, Brice Moon, representing the school’s senior class, spoke before the Bedford County School Board. The issue was a senior exemption from midterms.

    For some time, Bedford County seniors who met the grade and attendance criteria were exempt from taking both mid-term and final exams. There was an opt-in provision for students who felt the exam would help their grades.

    The school board changed the policy last spring, requiring all seniors to take the mid-terms. The problem, according to Moon, is that this change didn’t get in planners that SRHS students  got  in  the fall.  He  said  that  the  planners  they received and signed still reflected the old policy. They weren’t notified of the policy change until December and this came as an unpleasant surprise to students who had worked hard during the first semester to meet the criteria to be exempt from the exams.

    Moon, citing what they had been taught in government classes, noted the importance of signed contracts, referring to the signed student planners as a contract between the students and the school. He also referred to the Constitutional right of citizens to petition the government. He urged the school board to restore the old policy for SRHS students.

    Staunton River’s principal, Robert Stump, who took over last summer, admitted that there had been an error in the handbooks. He said that students are aware that policies in the handbook can be changed with notification going to the students.

    He also complimented the students.

    “They have used exactly what they learned in school,” he said.

    School board members noted that they can’t make a change for just one school.

    “We all make mistakes,” commented District 7 School Board Member Debbie Hoback, who said that she had no problem changing the policy for just one year.

    “Let’s just make sure we get it right next year,” she added.

    The school board asked the high school principals their opinion. Tony Francis, principal of Jefferson Forest High School, noted that teachers who teach advanced placement (AP) courses really wanted this new provision. They felt it would better prepare students for an AP test given in May.

    Dr. Cherie Whitehurst, principal of Liberty High School said that, from a student point of view, students had been looking forward to this exemption all their time in high school. Last years juniors were disappointed to learn, at the end of their junior year, that this wouldn’t be available to them.

    The school board voted 6-2 to continue the old policy for one more year, restoring the exemption to current seniors. Those who believe they will benefit from taking the exams can still opt-in.

    School Board Chairman Gary Hostutler and City Representative Mickey VanDerwerker cast the dissenting votes. VanDerwerker said that high school staff had asked for this change because college bound students need the practice taking exams.

    “I have a son who has senioritis, and it grows every day,” commented Hostutler, who wanted the exams to stay.

    In other business, the school board voted unanimously to eliminate the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian. This will take effect when the current sophomore class graduates. The existing “Rule of 24,” based on the 24 core courses for an advanced diploma, will continue to be used in determining who these students will be.