Over the past few years, local school districts have aligned their policies with state policy allowing high school seniors who meet all requirements to go ahead and graduate at the end of the fall semester.
And while the vast majority of seniors in Carroll County are staying on for the second semester, there were 22 who took advantage of the option and finished their high school careers in December of last year.
McKenzie High School had the most early graduates with 17. These included Chase Allen, Jacob Chesser, Zach Edge, Ryan Gibson, Anaya Horton, Peoni Humphreys, Larson King, Emma Lesley, Breanna Olson, Brock Minton, Lukas Pinson, and Bobbie Traywick.
Of these 13, one started classes at UT Martin earlier this month, four enrolled at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) in McKenzie, one joined the military and has begun basic training, and seven have entered the workforce as full-time employees.
This is the second year that MHS has allowed for early graduation.
It was the first year that Clarksburg High School has implemented this policy, and seven of 17 graduating Clarksburg seniors opted to graduate in December, including Jordan Aubuchon, Riley Carden, Matthew Evans, Aleah Gant, Jessica Jones, Abe Lindsey, and Sydney Segraves.
Huntingdon had two early graduates in the school district’s first year to do it, including Haley Grace Hill and Grace Elizabeth McMackin.
West Carroll High School and Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central High School did not have any early graduates this year, though both school districts do have the policy in place.
All five special school district in the county have the same requirements for early graduation.
For one, seniors must have completed all 28 required course credits, including all state-mandated core requirements.
They must also provide school administrators in advance with documented proof that they will be either enrolling in a two-year or four-year college, university, or technical school; entering a branch of the U.S. military; or starting a full-time job immediately after graduating in December.
All five of the school districts will allow these graduates to come back and participate in graduation ceremonies in the spring, and early graduates from Clarksburg, McKenzie, and West Carroll can also come to the senior prom. McKenzie additionally allows them to take part in the honors banquet.
But none of the county districts will permit early graduates to participate in second semester sports or other extra-curricular activities.
Local school administrators generally agree that the early graduation option is a good thing.
“I think it’s a great incentive for students who are serious about getting a jump on their academic and life goals,” said Huntingdon High School Principal Jonathan Kee.
“I think it’s a good thing for some, but it’s not for everybody,” said South Carroll Director of Schools Tony Tucker, who pointed out that in school districts as small as his, a large number of early graduates could harm high school sports programs in the second semester.
“It’s good for those who have a chosen path,” said McKenzie Director of Schools Lynn Watkins. “It gives them a step forward so they can go on and get a jumpstart on life.”
West Carroll Director of Schools Eric Williams also agreed that early graduation is a positive option for certain students. He added that it no longer hurts schools financially since the state ruled that school districts will no longer lose part of their BEP funding due to early graduates not being at school during the second semester.
“It’s a fine thing if the student is trying to get a chance to start work or school early,” said Hollow Rock-Bruceton Director of Schools David Duncan. “I’m for it if it benefits the student.”
Duncan admitted, however, that the way class schedules are set up at Central High School makes it very difficult for students to meet all the requirements for early graduation by the end of the first semester of their senior year.