RIVER FALLS — High school students would need two fewer credits to earn a degree starting with the 2021-2022 school year under revised graduation requirements that passed a first reading Monday night, Dec. 21.

School Board will hold a second reading and put the proposal up for a final vote in January. The board, which has been meeting weekly since the start of the school year due to the pandemic, is taking Dec. 28 off.

The new requirements also would affect Renaissance Academy Charter School students.

The current requirement of 30 credits leaves “a very small margin for error” for some students, River Falls High School Principal Kit Luedtke said in a presentation to the board. Dropping to 28 credits provides greater flexibility for struggling students as well as grants students more time to pursue college and career readiness opportunities.

“The current graduation guidelines don’t necessarily meet the needs of all our students, and what we’re doing is broadening that path (to graduation),” Luedtke said.

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He shared an example of an unnamed junior who is anxious about graduating because of a rough start in their freshman and sophomore years stemming from problems at home and an obligation to care for siblings. Though the student works hard, a failed class in their junior or senior year could jeopardize their diploma.

The changes include removing a requirement that at least one credit out of the minimum of three science credits must come from both biological and physical sciences. Students also would be required to earn at least a half credit in Introduction to Economics or Personal Finance classes.

School leadership and staff have discussed adjustments to graduation requirements for several years. Among the concerns has been the impact lowering credit requirements could have on enrollment numbers for elective classes.

A semester-long class is worth one credit, while a single term class is worth half a credit.

A first reading of the adjustments was approved by the district’s Educational Program Committee on Dec. 14.