Incoming freshmen in Columbia County schools may be able to jump start their high-school careers.
At Tuesday's school board meeting, trustees - minus Trustee Roxanne Whitaker, who was absent - agreed to submit a waiver to the state board of education asking permission for last year's eighth-graders to earn high-school credit for Algebra I.
"They'll just be starting the race a little bit sooner," said School Board trustee Jean Smith.
Melanie Stockwell, director of legal services for the state department of education, said the state is allowing the waivers because new, tougher graduation requirements will force students to take more math.
"These kids are going to have four years of math," said Nettie Engels, Columbia County Executive Curriculum Director. "I'm hoping they'll study harder."
The state school board approved the new requirements in July, under pressure from the board of regents to raise the standards in public schools.
But School Board Chairman Ray Hicks argued that offering the waiver will really lower the standards in the long run. If math credit is earned in middle school, students will free up an elective spot during their senior year, a spot that does not necessarily have to be used for math, he said.
"They might want to take something to try and bring up that grade-point average," Mr. Hicks said.
About 540 of Columbia County's new class of freshmen will be eligible to use the waiver, said Assistant Superintendent Jonnie Ghetti.
So far, about 40 school systems have asked for the waiver, Ms. Stockwell said.
On Thursday, Richmond County trustees will vote on a similar waiver.