Starting next school year, Westerville students won't have to sit in classrooms to earn high-school credits.

Starting next school year, Westerville students won't have to sit in classrooms to earn high-school credits.

Beginning next fall, the district will expand its flexible credit offerings to allow students to earn credits by doing internships, creating portfolios or by testing out of a class.

The changes are a result of Ohio Senate Bill 311, also known as the Ohio Core, which was signed into law in 2007. It requires districts to offer flexible credit options beginning in the 2010-2011 school year.

Many of the things allowed though the state's flexible credit program, such as independent studies and earning high-school and college credits at the same time, already are offered by Westerville schools, said Diane Conley, the district's chief of academic affairs.

The new state policy will allow the district to expand flexible credit options to students participating in other district programs.

"This opens it up to looking at more internships and mentorships counting for credit," Conley said.

The district also could allow students who are serious about art to put together a portfolio for credit, she said.

The flexible credits will provide great opportunity for students, Conley said, because they will be required to play greater roles in their own educations.

"It's really broadening the options to students," she said. "It's also making the students a little more responsible for their own learning because they'll have to be self-starters, self-learners, because there won't be a teacher working every day with you."

Over the coming months, Conley said the district will be working with teachers and staff members to define how students can earn flexible credits and what requirements will be for showing proficiency in a subject without taking a class.

While the state's flexible credit provision provides many opportunities for the district to expand its definition of credits, Conley said Westerville will be careful not to move too quickly in providing new options.

"We're going to be careful. We're not going to bite off more than we can handle," she said. "We'll start with what's manageable, and we'll gradually go back and refine and add on and gradually make changes on what we can offer students."

Conley said all the changes to credit guidelines will be taken up by the district's curriculum committees, and the staff will be updating the board of education regularly about the changes.