February 29th, 2024

lhs update grad requirementsThese are some of the new graduation requirements for Liberal High School that will be going into effect for the Class of 2028. The requirements were presented to the USD 480 school board at its most recent meeting last Monday. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The Liberal High School staff has been working hard to help make improvements to the school’s FlexMod scheduling and recently, LHS Principal Ashley Kappelmann gave an update about just that. 

“What we’ve done is we’ve packaged everything we’ve been working on, including the new graduation requirements, and called it Pathways to Success,” Kappelmann said. “Pathways is a very big word we’re using because a lot of what our students are needing to gear up toward is working on career pathways. Currently, our graduation requirements, which have been in place for a long time, include four units of English, three units of history and government, three units of science, three units of math, one unit of physical education, one unit of fine arts, six electives, one unit of business, and four additional electives, making for a total of 26 units required by USD 480. That’s for all the students currently at Liberal High School and will be until the Class of 2028, or the current 8th graders, starts at LHS. As far as the changes, the state has packaged English/language arts under communications and have taken away half a credit and made it 3.5 units of English with half a credit of communications, which can include speech, Forensics, Debate, etc. Society and Humanities remains the same with three units of social studies and one credit of fine arts, which has already been in place. STEM is the biggest change, and that’s where the Pathways become a really big deal because it includes three units of math, three units of science and one STEM elective, which has to be an upper-level math or science or CTE class. This is where it becomes a really big deal for us to focus on CTE  because we don’t have a large population of our students who are taking those upper-level classes, it’s only about 50 or 60 students. With the upper-level CTE classes, I think all of the pathways at this point have an internship opportunity available, but some also just have an upper-level class and application class that will count. That’s a big deal because the students will need some sort of pathway to end on this application model to fulfill that STEM credit.”

Kappelmann then continued going into detail about some other changes to be expected. 

“Something else that’s been added is an employability/life skills combination, and that includes a half-credit of P.E. and a half-credit of health, as well as a half-credit of financial literacy, which is something our students are already doing, and there are also 4.5 electives for the state and 9.5 credits for LHS,” Kappelmann said. “As we told the incoming freshmen’s parents, we’re trying not to call these electives, but rather graduation credits because some students tend to think that with electives, it’s okay to blow them off, but they’re still needed to graduate. The biggest thing there is it’s related to the students Individual Plans of Study (IPS), and it amps up our need for really strong advising and intentional planning for the students so they’re taking classes that match with their plans. The last thing there is two postsecondary assets either for career/real world or some academic postsecondary assets.”

Kappelmann then went into more detail about the pathway options available, which include agriculture/animal science, engineering, fashion apparel, marketing, visual arts and welding, among many others. 

“I would like to emphasize this doesn’t mean everything is absolutely set in stone and the students have to stick with it their entire high school career, but it does give them an area of focus and help them figure out what they might be interested in,” Kappelmann said. “Right now, we have 24 pathways at LHS for students to choose from. One of our main deliverables was to make sure the advising is both really intentional and also to make sure we’re not missing any students, because there’s just so much to know. What we’ve done is take these pathway plans for students and that shows what their course load will look like based on the pathway the student chooses. Another benefit of the more advanced STEM classes is you’re starting to look at other opportunities like becoming a CTE Scholar or something like that. A lot of those pathways also offer college credit just for completing the pathway.”

Kappelmann added there will be multiple avenues of assistance for the students.

“Every student will be assigned a counselor, and we have four of them at LHS. Next year, we’re moving to cohorts, so we’ll have ... Kathy Crosier, for example, will be our incoming freshman counselor, so she’ll work with those students all the way through and get to know their plans and GPA and other work really well,” Kappelmann said. “Every student will also have a homeroom mentor and advisor, and the freshmen will have a tribe instructor. The principals will pair up to do the grade levels, the teachers, and the social workers for the students on an IEP. A lot of this is probably common knowledge, but this is part of that parent communication piece as far as who they can contact and who’s looking after their student(s) while they’re in school.”

Kappelmann said something else that will be new will be what staff calls road options. 

“We’ve also worked really hard on this, and in addition to the improvements we’ve made to our deliverables, this also gives parents and students a visual of the options that are available in the schedule we have,” Kappelmann said. “With our Paved Path, that’s very straightforward with a basic set of classes, and we make sure there are no overlaps or other major issues like that. That option is more traditional and has less responsibility and is great especially for the incoming freshmen. With our Highway Option, there are more options available and more flexibility – that can be an option for students who maybe want to take a couple extra classes or do two pathways or trying some different activities. There is some increased responsibility on the students’ part, but we make sure to be up front about what all that entails, and that option includes some entry/exit points in case such circumstances arise where changes need to be made. With our Blazing Trail option, this is applicable to a small percentage of our students, but we do have some who want this opportunity. This can be for students who have special needs or circumstances. But more often than not, this would be for students looking to also get their associate’s degree or certification while wanting to remain in their high school activities. We monitor these students very, very closely to make sure they’re doing okay, and there’s a lot of extra communication and oversight. It’s a very high level of responsibility for the students, but they are looked in on. Those are the three main ways a student can utilize their schedule.”

Kappelmann said there is also a lot of work being done to continue improving communication and progress, which she says will help both the students and their teachers in the long run, and said there will continue to be improvements made as time goes on, particularly in regard to remaining in contact with parents.