BELTON — Laying concrete and rebar are the usual components of laying a building’s foundation. While essential, those materials are not the only thing needed when constructing a new high school.

A new formula for calculating grade point averages is a cornerstone. And the Belton Independent School District is about to lay that key component for Lake Belton High School, one of two new district’s campuses under construction.

With the addition of the Lake Belton campus, the district’s second comprehensive high school when it opens in the fall of 2020, Belton ISD is revising how it tallies students’ GPAs. The school board, at its meeting on Monday, reviewed the new policy.

There is a special policy and procedure that goes into play for specifically determining who will ultimately be the valedictorian, salutatorian and, ultimately, the class ranking system, Assistant Superintendent Deanna Lovesmith said. “This is a complete revision. This is not just a couple of changes.”

A 36-person committee — comprised of students, administrators, counselors, teachers and parents — has been crafting a revision since January. The school board will consider the policy at their July 16 meeting.

There are two reasons fueling the change in GPA calculation.

“One, because we have a second comprehensive high school coming and we really needed to look at doing a refresh on that,” said Lovesmith, who is in charge of the curriculum and instruction for Belton schools.

The second reason, Lovesmith explained, is the combining of Belton High School and Belton New Tech High School @ Waskow into essentially one campus for class rankings.

“We needed to look at how those two would interact with each other,” she said.

Determining top graduates

Thinking through how Belton ISD will handle class rankings between Belton High, New Tech and Lake Belton High schools was challenging, Lovesmith said. Despite that, Lovesmith and Christina Flores — the advanced academic services coordinator — asked 16 top-performing high school students to help tackle the issue.

The current practice of having a valedictorian and salutatorian at the high school campuses will continue. A valedictorian and salutatorian will be named at BHS, New Tech and Lake Belton High School.

“They will still have separate ceremonies, so for ceremonial purposes a ‘val’ and ‘sal’ will be named,” Lovesmith said.

While each high school graduating class will have a valedictorian and salutatorian, there is another issue the district has to address: Who receives the tuition waiver from the state?

The waiver, which covers a graduate’s freshman year of college, can only be given to one person per high school class.

The highest-ranking student in a graduating class at Lake Belton High School will receive it.

As for Belton High School and New Tech, the highest ranking student from the combined class will receive it.

The proposed policy clarifies that in order to receive the waiver the student must be eligible to be valedictorian, meaning they must have attended the school for the previous four semesters. This eligibility requirement will be effective with the graduating class of 2019.

“Technically, somebody could have moved in their senior year, not be valedictorian, but be the highest-ranking graduate,” Lovesmith said, adding the committee wanted to clarify what it means to be the highest-ranking graduate.

Belton High School and New Tech will be considered one class, beginning with the graduating class of 2021.

Dual-credit courses

Although D’s get degrees in college and are considered passing, the same cannot be said for high schoolers taking dual-credit courses. The new policy states that a grade below a 70 will not be weighted.

“We want to clarify that if you receive a grade below a 70 in a dual-credit course that it will not receive a weight,” Lovesmith said, explaining this change will not negatively impact class rank.

This is not the sole proposed change for dual-credit courses. Grades from these classes must be received by May 15 to count toward students’ GPAs. Currently, the district receives final grades from its dual-credit colleges by that date.

If the final grade is received after that date, it will not be weighted. The student will still get the credit, but it will not be in their GPA, Lovesmith said.

The dual-credit course final grade deadline and not weighting classes below 70 will go into effect with the graduating class of 2019.

Furthermore, dual credit will be calculated differently for freshmen and sophomores in the 2018-19 school year. Currently, these classes are weighted by 15 points at Belton High School and 10 points at New Tech. The new policy will give 15 additional points to dual-credit courses, and will go into effect with the graduating class of 2021.

“These are students who have not taken dual-credit courses yet so it’s occurring before they make the decision to take those courses,” Lovesmith said. “That’s important because we don’t want to change a policy midway through.”

Weighting classes

Beginning with the incoming freshman in August, classes will fall into four levels: skills, the lowest level; regular; pre-Advanced Placement and dual credit courses; and, finally, AP courses.

“Depending on the course and which level that is, is how that particular grade and that course will translate,” Lovesmith said.

Under this leveled system, GPAs will be on a 7.0 scale that will exclusively be used for class rankings.

The change will only affect students in the graduating class of 2022 and beyond.

School board member Janet Leigh represented the board in the GPA policy change committee. She said no stone was left unturned.

“The reason that I volunteered to represent the board on this (is because) I recently took two children completely through this process and navigated GPAs and how it all works,” Leigh said, explaining how she and her two sons had to determine which classes would help their GPAs. “It’s a complicated thing.”

Lovesmith described the policy as being personal.

“This is personal — not for me, but for BISD,” she said. “It’s really what’s best for our students at this time and the courses we offer.”

The new policy, Leigh said, honors students “in every way it possibly can.”

Superintendent Susan Kincannon offered her own assessment of the proposal.

“It is a significant step forward toward the opening of Lake Belton High School,” she said.