Seymour High School students who want to participate in graduation will need to complete a minimum of 40 credits.

Currently, the school allows students who have achieved 38 of the 40 credits to take part in the annual graduation ceremony in the spring. Those students don’t receive their diplomas, however, until they earn at least two more credits during the summer through the school’s online Grad Point credit recovery program.

Principal Greg Prange said when he took over the principal’s job in 2006, the school was letting students with 36 credits walk in graduation and then receive their diploma after they attended summer school and completed the required 40 credits.

The number of credits was increased to 38 in 2013.

“I decided several years ago to tighten that to 38 and it worked for awhile,” Prange said. “It was effective and we had more students get closer to 40 before graduation.”

Prange said it’s still not enough to get all students to graduate on time.

There were around 30 students out of nearly 300 or 10 percent of the class of 2017 that participated in graduation but had only 38 credits. Those students had until Sept. 30 to complete their coursework to earn 40 credits, and all of them did, Prange said.

Last year’s class was “challenging” in regards to how much time and effort Prange and other staff put into making sure students completed their credits during the summer, he added.

“It’s come to the point where we need a little bit more incentive for students to walk,” he said. “I want them to feel the urgency to walk that I feel for them to finish.”

Prange said there are always between 20 and 30 students who fall into this category each year, but with larger classes of around 400 students coming up, he doesn’t want to see that number grow.

“We are already contacting our juniors and our sophomores and their families to let them know about this change because they still have time to catch up and be on track to finish,” he said.

Most students who are close to graduating want to participate in commencement with their classmates and in front of their family members, Prange added.

“The big incentive, I have found, for the borderline students is not necessarily graduating and receiving a diploma. It’s the actual act of walking (during graduation). That’s when grandma’s in town, and there’s a big party, and they’re onstage,” he said.

Prange said it’s important to get those students to graduate on time so school staff are not as “tied down” during the summer and can spend more time working with the next class.

“We print out their transcripts and go through their grades. We call them, knock on their doors, track them down, visit them at work to get them into Grad Point and it seems like it means more to us than it does to them,” he said. “I want these kids to have more ownership in their education and their future and we don’t want to work harder to get them to that point, we want to work smarter.”

Special needs students receiving a certificate of completion will still be allowed to participate in commencement, and some students may receive permission due to special circumstances beyond their control that significantly interfere with earning 40 credits, such as an illness or injury.

The change won’t impact the current senior class but will become effective for the Class of 2019, Prange said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.