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Plan may save choice classes

An amendment to a House bill would ease off the strengthened academic course requirements for freshmen entering college.

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Gibbs High School senior Bonnie DeCamp frames a piece of art in her unified arts class Tuesday. Gibbs High is a magnet school for the arts.

By SHELBY OPPEL

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 12, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- Magnet school students and others interested in the arts may get a reprieve from looming university admissions requirements that would limit how many elective courses they can take in high school.

Beginning in fall 2003, state universities are supposed to require incoming freshmen to have taken 19 academic courses in high school -- four more than are required now.

To fit the additional academic courses into their schedules, students probably would have to give up electives in the arts, computers, vocational studies and ROTC. This year's high school freshmen would be affected first.

That is, unless state Rep. Evelyn Lynn gets her way. Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, succeeded Tuesday in attaching an amendment to a House bill that would essentially erase the new requirement.

Universities simply would continue what they're doing now: The schools would still require 19 credits for admission. But four of those credits could come from "non-academic" areas such as music, drama and ROTC.

That means high school students could continue taking multiple electives each year without jeopardizing their chances for admission to state universities. The potential fix is particularly important to students at popular themed magnet schools, such as the arts magnet at Gibbs High School. If the new requirement took effect this year, no Gibbs magnet student would meet it. Only 16 of the 28 credits that magnet students earn in high school are considered academic courses.

Lynn said she received at least 50 phone calls about the issue from educators and parents.

"It is a very major issue," she said.

Lynn's measure now heads for a vote on the House floor. Lynn said she is confident the Senate will approve a similar fix, whether in its own proposal or by approving her amendment. Gov. Jeb Bush must sign off on the plans.

The requirement for 19 academic courses was approved by the Board of Regents in 1995 but has never been enforced by the state's 10 universities. When Adam Herbert became university system chancellor, he ordered all universities to adhere to the rule in 2003.

Herbert believes the rule is good because academic courses are the best predictors of college success, said Keith Goldschmidt, Herbert's spokesman.

"But if they change the law, we will comply," Goldschmidt said.

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