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Incoming seniors relieved at loss of senior project requirement

This year’s class of high school seniors will be the first in seven years to graduate without completing a culminating project.

Also called “senior projects,” the year-long assignment is no longer a requirement for graduation.

Incoming seniors at Eagle Harbor and Bainbridge high schools said they are happily surprised they won’t need to complete a culminating project to earn their diplomas.

“I was happy because it was one less thing I had on my plate,” said BHS senior Karen Ware.

“We already have so much to stress over as seniors, so it’s awesome not having a huge project to top it all off,” Ware said.

“I think it’s a positive change for me, but for other people it may be a negative change,” said BHS senior Alex Fuller. “I’ve noticed that certain individuals have already done their project as an underclassman, or have already made plans for their project.”

Cumulative projects have only been a compulsory element of Washington’s secondary curriculum since 2008, and were designed to encourage seniors to use their passions to make a contribution to the community. The goals and results of the projects were completely up to students to choose.

Past projects at Bainbridge High include volunteering at nonprofit organizations, donating handmade arts-and-crafts and encouraging middle school students to study French.

Not every BHS faculty member supported the addition of cumulative projects to the roster of graduation requirements, however, because no additional funding was ever provided to support the effort.

Some students and school faculty members have also said that cumulative projects weren’t always taken very seriously, and students often scraped by with the bare minimum just to graduate without benefitting from the lessons the projects were intended to give.

The decision to throw out the requirement was made by the Washington State Legislature during this year’s legislative session, but lawmakers left open the possibility for individual school districts to decide whether or not to keep culminating projects as a local requirement for graduation.

After getting feedback from parents and students, as well as input from site councils, school leadership teams and parent groups, administrators at both the island’s high schools asked the school board to do away with the requirement.

The school board unanimously agreed, and dropped senior projects as a graduation requirement.

Students still have the option of presenting a project on their own initiative, but as a part of a specific curriculum or as an independent study course.

Eagle Harbor High School senior Sarah Flower-McCraw said she would probably do a culminating project, but added that other students might be relieved they won’t have to do one to graduate.

Flower-McCraw said that removing the requirement will improve the level of work done by students committed to a project, while allowing students who aren’t interested to avoid the hassle.

“I think overall it’s a positive change, because the people who are not motivated to do it will not have to do something crappy and call it a senior project and the people who are motivated will do something and it will probably turn out fantastic,” she said.

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