Relief for high school seniors as confusion over exam exemption is corrected

VIDEO: Relief for high school seniors as confusion over exam exemption is corrected

Charleston County high schools seniors can breathe a sigh of relief after confusion about exam exemptions was cleared up Thursday afternoon.

The Charleston County School Board voted to suspend the 1996 established district wide policy on exam exemption for the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year; the policy was also amended in 2000 and 2005.

"It states you have to have a 93 average or above and no unexcused absences in order to exempt an exam," said CCSD board chair Cindy Bohn Coats.

For the remainder of the school year, high schools will now run under a policy that was used last year, which caused the confusion this week.

During the 2014-2015 school year a "pilot policy" was tested which allowed seniors with an 85 grade point average or higher in a class, the chance to forgo their final exams.

Following the end of that school year that policy was then transcribed into some of the high school policy handbooks for the 2015-2016 school year without the school board knowing.

"In July administrators went to their supervisors and asked what the standard for exemptions should be," said Bohn Coats. "They were told to use the same pilot as last year."

However, Wednesday morning school administrators were notified that only seniors who had a grade average of 93 would be eligible for exam exemption, raising alarm among students and parents as exam week approaches.

Many students took to social media to share their outrage.

A Wando High School Senior wrote, "The majority of the people I know didn't even study because they thought they were exempting."

Another Wando student wrote, "They don't want you to exempt your exams. They don't want you to have fun. They really don't."

"People were pretty upset, shocked…" said Wando High School Senior Mikel Simmons.

While Simmons doesn't qualify for the pilot policy, several of his friends do.

He said they were stressing out about last minute studying once they initially heard from the district the exemptions would return to normal.

"They really weren't upset about the policy, they were upset about the way they did it," he said. "It was very last minute."

Thursday afternoon CCSD board members held a telephone conference to discuss the matter and how to correct the issue.

They unanimously agreed the 85 grade point average, which is written in several of the school's handbooks this year, should be upheld for the remainder of the school year.

"We owe it to our students to set their standards, set their commitments and then do our jobs to keep our commitments," said Bohn Coats.

During the conference several board members mentioned they never remembered voting on the "pilot policy" that was used last year.

"Looking through the minutes of the meetings I can find no evidence that the board was ever made aware of this deviation from the [original] policy," said Bohn Coats. "[It sounds like a] person or person in the administration tried to pilot a new standard. That's not allowable. You have to inform and/or get approval of the board to alter a board policy."

All board members agreed the issue would need to be discussed again before the 2016-2017 school year.

Many members, including Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait, feel a 93 grade average is the best exemption policy to use in the future.

The suspension of the original policy will not affect the underclassmen's exemptions.

Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors, who have a grade average of 93 or higher and have no unexcused absences, are still exempt from final exams, according to Postlewait.

The first semester of the school year ends January 13.

In Dorchester County School District 2, seniors with an average grade of 85 or higher and no unexcused absences may exempt the final exam, according to a district spokesperson.

In Berkeley County School District, seniors can exempt all exams in courses they are not failing, according to the board policy on the district website.

In Dorchester County District 4, there is no mention of seniors having the ability to exempt exams in the district's board policy. An email on DD4's policy has not been returned.

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