SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education on Thursday voted to put on hold a board rule that changed state requirements for seventh- and eighth-graders and return it to a committee for further study.
Earlier this year, the State School Board adopted changes to a rule that dropped the arts, health, physical education, digital education and college and career readiness as core requirements for seventh- and eighth-graders.
The rule change, approved by a 9-6 vote in August, said districts or charter schools "shall offer" the following courses aligned with core standards in seventh and eighth grades: at least two of five arts courses, including visual arts, music, dance, theater or media arts; physical education; health education; college and career awareness; and as of the 2018-19 school year, digital literacy, and at least one of the world languages.
But after a three-hour public meeting in September during which dozens of students, parents and school administrators urged the board to reverse course, the board directed state education officials to hold off reporting the rule's effective date to the Utah Office of Administrative Rules, which would have been the final step in the rule-making process.
The board further directed that the rule be returned to its Standards and Assessment Committee for further consideration of issues raised at the public hearing and in written remarks submitted to the board.
After an identical motion failed early on in the discussion, board member Brittney Cummins introduced amended language, which she said provided flexibility for school districts and public charter schools but established "guardrails" that ensure all students continue to have opportunities to access arts, health and PE instruction, not just ones with more resources might be able to access outside of the school setting.
Board member Kathleen Riebe said she believed the alternative struck a nice compromise between the original changes to State School Board Rule R277-700 and input from the public hearing in September, that resulted in a 377-page report.
"As a board, it would be nice to react to the hearing and to create a compromise that listens to what our constituents have said to us. They took the time to come to us and email us. I think it is responsible to all the parties that reached out to us," Riebe said.
While the amendment proposed by Cummins won favor from board members who had opposed changes to the rule to begin with, others said they were too pressed for time to consider an alternative on Thursday. Others objected to alternative language that did away with many of the changes a majority of board members approved in August.
After discussion, the board's voted to effectively press the "pause" button on the changes, said board chairman Mark Huntsman.