By Cam Macko
While most students bolted out the doors for semester break on Jan. 19 for a long four-day weekend, forced to come back the next Tuesday, a few seniors walked out of those doors for the last time in their high school lives.
Through prior planning and use of the MPS curriculum, it is possible to achieve the minimal number of credits to graduate by the end of the first semester of senior year.
Recent graduate Claudia Healey managed to graduate in only seven semesters by using seventh hours to her advantage and by taking two semester classes of English and math this past semester in order to fill the MPS requirement.
“Everyone graduates with 24 credits, but you only need 22 if you take six classes every year,” Healey said. “So if you take seventh hours, you can get out early. And then your senior year, you just have to double up on a math and an English [class during] first semester. I think I took two years of seventh hours, total. It just puts you ahead in credits.”
Healey didn’t realize she wanted to graduate early until the end of first semester of junior year.
Another recent graduate, Jason Paris, had a similar story in order to graduate early.
“I took a seventh hour all through high school, except this semester,” Paris said. “And I’m doubling up on math and English.”
Nearly every student is required a total of 22 credits, four being in math, four in English, three credits for both science and social studies, one visual and performing arts credit, a half of a credit for both Lifelong Fitness and Health & Wellness and six credits for general electives. The MPS school district also requires one full year of math and English in a student’s senior year, so taking two math and two English classes in one semester is, technically, one full year of those subjects.
It is relatively difficult to be able to graduate early, and several things must be taken into account before a student can do this.
“It’s more difficult now with the graduation requirements, having to have a year of math during their senior year and four years of English,” DHS counselor Lori Hallberg said. “So if somebody wants to graduate early they really need to plan in advance, maybe even starting in ninth grade, taking seventh hours and doubling up on at least English and planning so they can graduate early.”
Students have different reasons or see different advantages for wanting to graduate early. Paris wanted to take a few college courses to get a head-start on college, while Healey said she just didn’t like high school.
“One advantage I would see is a lot of colleges, you select your classes based on how many credits you have, so if you have more credits [than] other students in your grade, you’d be able to select classes and be able to get the classes that you want,” Hallberg said.
She added that if a student wanted to take a college program that went longer than four years, starting a semester early could put that person at an advantage in that they might be able to finish college in four years, plus that extra semester.
Paris said that he would be taking math and English classes at Delta College during what would be his second semester of senior year, while Healey said she would be getting a job in order to help pay for college.
They will both walk with the senior class at graduation.
Seniors who want to come back for other senior events like commencement or prom are allowed to, but still have to heed school rules and guidelines.
“They can come to prom but they still have to follow all school rules and policies and things like that,” assistant principal Ted Davis said. “Just because they’ve finished their courses and don’t need to come back to take classes they would still, when they come back on school property, need to follow school rules. No senior pranks and that kind of stuff. This whole timeframe leading up to commencement, if they did something crazy, that could jeopardize if they do get to walk.”
Students may have to miss a lot of senior events like senior breakfast or prom that comes with the second semester at senior year and graduating early isn’t for everyone.
“It really depends on the person,” Hallberg said. “I think for most students, staying here for the full senior year really helps to continue preparing them for college. In the second half of the senior year they have prom and other senior-type activities that they would otherwise miss.”