Pine View is recognized across the nation for its rigorous coursework, a large variety of extracurricular activities and highly motivated students. However, in recent years, parts of the Pine View community have been led to question the worth of a Pine View diploma due to an increase in students taking classes online, off-campus, and less rigorous than those of the general student body. With few guidelines in place, Pine View’s administration has been tackling how to rectify this uncertainty by proposing new graduation requirements to be approved by the school board and to take effect for the graduating class of 2025.
Proposed additions to graduation requirements were originally to complete eight highly rigorous courses determined by Florida’s course code directory, and for 17 out of the already-required 26 credits to be taken on campus, rather than online or off-campus through dual-enrollment options.
“Pine View is a school for academically gifted students, and I think we were losing that when students were getting their AA degree. Spending their last two years off of the Pine View campus, you know, were they really even Pine View graduates?” Vice-chair of the Sarasota County School Board, Shirley Brown said regarding the reasoning behind the requirement to take 17 out of 26 credits on the Pine View campus.
Most schools ranked nationally among Pine View in publications such as World Report or U.S. News do have several rigorous courses required for their own students’ graduations. Even the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Riverview High School requires students to take seven highly rigorous courses to be granted the IB diploma. This worried parts of the Pine View community that the change was made to improve the school’s ranking, rather than in the student’s best interest.
“Ranking, whether by the state, an outside group, or an online company is just an external recognition of the wonderfully gifted students we have at Pine View, and the hard work of the students and teachers,” Principal Dr. Stephen Covert said in an email response to the suggestion that the changing graduation requirements are the result of wanting a higher ranking. “As I said in an interview for the Herald Tribune, to chase ranking is truly a fool’s-errand.”
Jan. 21, the Sarasota County School Board voted three to two in favor of the proposal to advance. The board members determined that the new requirements were to be advertised for 30 days and officially voted on after this period.
While a large majority of Pine View students already meet, if not surpass, the requirements proposed, some are worried that the gifted population at Pine View that do not are still quite valuable to the school and will be held back in other ways if they have to take on a harder course load.
“I get that most Pine View students meet the requirements, but some don’t. They could be working just as hard, and I feel like not giving them a [Pine View] diploma invalidates the fact that they even went here,” eleventh-grader, Keleigh Koeniger said divulging on her qualms with the first proposed graduation requirements.
“My primary concern was always the rigorous course requirement. I thought it was unnecessary, and antithetical to what Pine View is, and should remain, a school for the gifted, not just the academically-driven gifted,” PVA member and Pine View alumni and parent Karen Kirsch said.
Others are sure that if students are meant for Pine View, they can handle a rigorous course load.
“If you are labeled as gifted, then you have the potential to take advanced classes. If you are in the top two percent of the population, I feel like you are able to take some advanced classes, not necessarily all of them,” science teacher, Dr. Jay Skipper said, explaining his support towards the original proposal.
“I think that Pine View students should be able to handle [eight rigorous courses]. Pine View is not for every smart kid. There’s a difference between a child being smart and a child being purely gifted academically. There was some concern about the mental health of kids who are in these high academic classes, but when you look into it, it’s not so much the courses giving these kids trouble but the parents who were putting pressure on these kids,” Brown said, clarifying why she would have voted for the original proposal.
Jan. 28, Dr. Covert called a meeting for the vision-setting committee and they decided on changing the proposal to no longer include the eight rigorous course requirements. Following this decision, Dr. Covert sent out an email, phone call, and “banner” announcing the changes made to the proposal the next day. The announcement stated that feedback from “valued stakeholders” influenced this change to the original proposal. This new proposal was presented at the last school board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 4, and was approved for a 28 day advertisement period.
Many opponents of the original proposal are in support of the new one, including Koeniger, who expressed her support after hearing about the change. Skipper, a proponent of the original proposal, also agrees that most of the students’ classes should be taken on campus.
“We have many problems at Pine View, but our kids not working hard enough isn’t one of them… I think that the culture at Pine View is its biggest asset, so I am generally in favor of anything that encourages our students to soak that in. My only concern is that our very accelerated students may be prevented from availing themselves of opportunities outside of Pine View’s campus that may meet their individual needs,” Kirsch said. “But, in general, I think that this is a good compromise, and allows our school’s kids to chart their own unique courses through our amazing school.”
Brown hopes to see the idea of a required amount of rigorous courses revisited in the coming years.
“I think if we let the parents and the students know, this is what we expect, and you can’t take AP or other rigorous courses, maybe you shouldn’t be at Pine View. I think they just wanted to quell the issue, so we can do it one step at a time. Pine View is an academically gifted school, we have to keep that in mind,” Brown said.
While it doesn’t seem that the eight highly rigorous courses will be revisited as a graduation requirement in the near future, there is discussion among whether students who complete this achievement can be given a certain recognition.
“There needs to be more discussion and more study on how we support and recognize students who choose to pursue highly rigorous course pathways at Pine View,” Dr. Covert said and continued that the Shared Decision-Making Team will explore ways to do such.