High school students in Lodi who hope to be competitive when applying to college say they are having trouble fitting the required driver’s education and health classes into their schedules.
This has led the Lodi Unified School District Board of Trustees to discuss the possibility of permanently ending the requirement for all students.
An initial proposal was rejected, but the district is still seeking a way to accommodate students who take the year-long AVID and Advanced Placement geography classes in their freshman year.
AVID is a program that helps students learn study skills and receive assistance in their other classes through tutoring and peer support. The trade-off is that these students are unable to fit driver’s ed or health classes in with AVID and their other freshman-year required classes, and competitive students often already have plans to fill future years with AP courses.
“It became an issue about five years ago when we had to eliminate summer school due to budget cuts,” said Lisa Kotowski, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction. She said students, teachers and counselors have raised the issue, which she estimates affects nearly 300 students district-wide.
Previously, students would have made up the classes over the summer, but with that option no longer available, there are few alternatives.
So far, students have been making up the requirements by paying for online driver’s ed classes and completing online courses and independent study packets for health, but some parents are fed up with the inconsistent solutions.
A number of parents who spoke at last Tuesday’s board meeting were adamant that education should be free and equal for everyone.
“I think that removing the requirement would be extremely helpful, because it’s really tough to fit that in. My daughter has taken almost every AP class there is, and she made up the requirement because she wanted to graduate, but it’s unneeded stress,” Marena Henne said.
Henne said that while she believes health education is important, she hopes that as a parent she can provide the knowledge her daughter needs.
Some of the district’s health and driver’s education teachers also voiced concerns about getting rid of the requirement entirely.
“We should be looking more for ways for these students to get health and driver’s ed,” said Jennifer Taylor, health/driver’s education/family living teacher at Lodi High School. “It seems the district is more interested in doing what’s easiest instead of what’s best for the students. I feel health-related issues can be a lot more stressful than trying to figure out how to fit in a class.”
Taylor said that topics such as depression, STDs and teen pregnancy can be tough for students to learn about without proper health instruction.
While the district is working to come up with other solutions, the board voted to temporarily remove the health and driver’s education requirement for incoming freshmen in the 2014-15 academic year. The current school year also had the requirements waived.
“It’s one of the few things the district has the opportunity to do,” Kotowski said. “Driver’s ed and health are not mandated by the state or other institutions.”