Utah Board of Education votes to make three subjects optional for 7th and 8th-graders


SALT LAKE CITY  — The idea is to give parents more control over what their child studies in middle school, but some say easing course requirements could put students at a disadvantage.

On Friday, the Utah State Board of Education approved a new policy that makes health, physical education and art classes optional.

In a 9-6 vote,  board members moved forward on revisions to several middle school course requirements. That means school districts and charter schools can now establish their own course requirements.

“It’s all up to them and it’s in their hands so it’s local control,” said Angie Stallings, Deputy Superintendent, Utah State Board of Education.

Stallings says some administrators struggled to offer students more electives because there wasn’t room in their schedules. But, with more flexibility, districts such as Canyons will benefit.

“There were students in the dual language immersion program that were going to be required to drop any of their arts courses like choir classes, and band classes," Stallings said.

Some board members praised the policy.

“I talked to all my charters and all my districts, and they all like this,” said Linda Hansen, Utah State Board of Education member. “I have confidence in them that they will find the counselors, they care about those kids, do the things they need to do that makes this work.”

But others weren’t committed.

“I’m going to vote no. I’m happy with the revisions and the direction it’s going but this rule is not ready,” said Brittney Cummins, Utah State Board of Education member. “We are not ready to go forward with this because we don’t know the consequences we’re creating yet.”

Some worry rural schools will have limited options.

But Stallings said even though the courses are optional, districts and charter schools must make those courses available to students.

“There’s things such as online courses, distance education courses, for example, where a student in Blanding could be taking a course with a student at Alta High School," Stallings said.

The public will have a chance to weigh in over the next 30 days. If all goes smoothly, the changes could be implemented as early as October 9th.

The public can submit comments about the new policy here: rule.comments@schools.utah.gov