AUBURN — Students at Edward Little High School may soon have three paths to earning a diploma.

On Wednesday, the School Committee approved the first reading of an amendment to the Auburn School District’s graduation policy. If approved, members of the Class of 2022 will be eligible to receive one of three diplomas.

The difference between each is the number of credits required. Students who earn 20 credits are eligible to graduate with a standard diploma, whereas 24 credits will earn students a diploma with distinction and 28 credits, a diploma with honors.

Previously, students were required to have 24 credits to graduate.

If the amendment passes, there would be a transition period for students to receive the diploma with honors. Current seniors would need to have 26 credits at graduation, while juniors would need 27 credits. The sophomore class will be the first class required to earn 28 credits to get a diploma with honors.

Superintendent Cornelia Brown said the district’s administrative team recommends increasing the number of pathways to graduation.

“What we would like to do is give students the recognition for kids who go well beyond the standard diploma,” she said. “We would like to give kids an opportunity to access what will be a diploma that allows them to enter the world of work, the workforce, the military, and that would still exceed the state’s requirements,” which is a minimum of 18 credits.

The amendment would also reduce the number of community service hours required for graduation from 24 to 18.

Ward 2 representative Pamela Hart expressed reservations at reducing the number of service hours required for graduation. “I think that civics and civil opportunities and helping your community is so important, and I guess I don’t understand why we need to cut down the volunteer hours,” she said.

Brown agreed that community service hours are important. “I think that kids will continue to reach and go beyond the number of hours that are requested. But for the kids who might need that 20-credit diploma and they need to graduate, then this is a vehicle for them,” she said.

Earlier in the meeting, Athletic Director Todd Sampson gave a detailed presentation regarding winter athletics.

Sampson said winter athletics will be a greater challenge than fall sports because many of the teams are reliant on outside venues for practice and competitions. Each of these venues will have different policies regarding vaccination, masking and spectators.

Many of these facilities are at local colleges and universities, which each have their own restrictions and rules about high school athletes.

Sampson said he is most concerned for Edward Little’s indoor track team. Bates College in Lewiston, which usually hosts local indoor track teams for practice and the Class B indoor track state championship, will not allow high school athletes to use its facilities this year.

Travel will also remain a challenge as bus driver shortages persist.

Sampson also explained that the Maine Principals Association has stepped back this year and is leaving public health policies and procedures up to individual school districts, meaning that each district may have differing rules.

“It’s kind of late-breaking news,” he said. “Every day there seems to be a change and new information.”

The School Committee discussed several other amendments Wednesday, including the district’s policy and procedures for using physical restraints and seclusion on students. The amendments focused on definitions and wording. The amendments were made in response to a bill from the Maine Legislature passed earlier this year.

The next meeting will take place Nov. 3.

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