Reminder: High school schedule looks different

Reminder: High school schedule looks different
Posted on 08/15/2017

The six-period day at Lynden High School has vanished, replaced this coming school year with an eight-class semester of rotating days. And it all comes from new graduation requirements mandated by the state, bumping credit requirements from 20 to 24.

Let’s walk through where Lynden was, what the state changes are and where Lynden will go for the 2017-2018 school year.

The state changes
State legislation from about eight years ago that went into effect for the Class of 2019 bumped the credit requirement for Washington State high school students from 20 to 24 credits. But school districts could apply for a maximum of two, three-year waiver periods to figure out how the new requirements shifted the way they set up their school day. With the second of those waivers running out this school year, Lynden—and a host of districts across Washington—must make changes to mesh with the new state requirement.

The state’s shift was in an effort to create more in-school experiences for students, getting them college or career ready. The new requirement of students needing to take two years of a foreign language, for example, falls in line with acceptance requirements of four-year universities, but was not previously required by the state. At the same time, the state realized that not every student planned to attend a four-year university, so made allowances for students to instead choose a career personal pathway and substitute more classes—such as an ag tech class at LHS—in lieu of a foreign language. Either way, the state hoped to see more opportunities for high school students.

The state also made one other important change: removing “seat time” requirements. Instead of requiring students take a certain number of hours of class time in order to earn a credit, they left it up to the schools to determine what constitutes a credit.

Where we were
The most recent iteration of Lynden’s schedule comes in the form of a six-period day, seen most recently in the 2016-17 school year. With the old state graduation requirement of 20 credits needed to graduate, Lynden High School’s requirement of 22 credits surpassed the standard. And the six-period day allows for 24 credits over four years, giving students a touch of wiggle room should they struggle in a class or two.

If Lynden left the six-period day in tact that wiggle room would evaporate. “If a kid failed one semester of a class, they are already off track for graduation,” says Ian Freeman, LHS principal. “We are not encouraging kids to fail a class, but the intent is to always allow for a little wiggle room. I have never seen a school in the state that offers a schedule that is exactly (matched with the state graduation requirement).” 

As Lynden weighed options, Freeman says they considered granting credits for advanced classes in middle school, allowing students to pass competency exams to earn credits or adding classes during zero period before school or after school. “One of the things that became pretty clear is that all of these additional options would be great for some kids, but if a kid isn’t on some advanced track, basically we are not adding any options for that kid,” he says. “We pretty quickly determined that for it to be equitable for all students, there had to be options during the school day to get enough credits to graduate.”

Freeman says they considered about five different schedules seriously. 

Where we are
Get ready for a four-by-eight, where LHS offers four periods a day, but eight classes a semester. On day one, students will take periods one, two, three and four and then the following school day periods five, six, seven and eight. This is the same schedule Ferndale and Mount Vernon have been on for a decade and what was adopted by all Bellingham high schools, Sedro-Woolley and Burlington.

The new plan gives students the ability to garner 32 credits and makes the “24-credit dilemma a total non-issue,” Freeman says. This change was made possible by the lifting of the seat time requirement.

In the past, Lynden offered a four-period day that allowed for a credit per semester because of the time in class, allowing for eight credits per year, but that was deemed negative because students would often go an entire calendar year without taking core classes again—a first semester math class one year could potentially not be followed up with another math class until the second semester of the following year—and it didn’t allow for any half-credit electives.

Lynden’s graduation requirement will likely fall higher than the state requirement, Freeman says, because “students need opportunities to explore while in high school. They need time to take elective credits.”


“The intent was not to reduce time in high school,” Freeman says, “it was to increase opportunities and experiences during the four years they are here.”

The new schedule will allow for core classes to run an entire school year, worth one credit. But it also gives the flexibility for electives to run one semester, worth half a credit. This opens up the opportunity for new classes, both within the core and electives, whether a second-year calculus class or more sections of advanced art. And expect another world language class for more student choices. Freeman says that the schedule also allows for more interventions, such as having a student take math every single day instead of every other. 

“The total pie is the same size,” Freeman says about the changes. “Students are getting four years of high school and the length of the school day is still the same. The total pie is the same, it is just cut into smaller wedges and there are more of them. If a student has a passion, it provides more opportunities over four years to take classes in that area or they can treat it as a variety pack where you are getting 32 different flavors.”