Hundreds of Richland students not currently served by the district's gifted program will soon be eligible for additional education services.
Administrators just need to figure out what those services will be.
Richland School Board members approved the changes at their Tuesday meeting.
They expanded the criteria that students must meet to be part of the district's Highly Capable, or Hi-Cap, program.
They also created the framework for meeting student needs at individual schools and not just through a "magnet program" at Lewis & Clark Elementary School.
Administrators said they'll be working with school principals and teachers in the coming months to determine what the new program will look like. The lack of details concerns some parents but they added they're happy change is coming.
"The policy has come a long way and I know it's been painful but thank you for all the hard work," said parent Deb Barnett.
Many districts offer programs for students who score particularly high on assessments. Currently, more than 70 students in the third- through fifth-grades from throughout Richland are enrolled in classes at Lewis & Clark as part of the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program, which is funded by a grants and state money.
However, state lawmakers are requiring districts to provide some form of enrichment to all students in K-12 education who are high performing.
It's unclear how many students would want or qualify for advanced educational offerings.
Currently, scores on tests given to all students would make 700 math students and 830 reading students eligible to be considered and assessed further.
But in some cases, parents decline to give permission for their children to be assessed, said Assistant Superintendent Mike Hansen.
The district isn't planning to spread the Lewis & Clark program to other schools, Hansen said, and that magnet program will continue to be the option offered to the district's most high-achieving elementary students. But for students who want to stay at their home school or are still among the best students, the new program will provide options.
"The next step is designing it for the (schools)," Hansen said.
State education officials have provided little guidance on what those new programs will look like. Individual and group projects and online learning are options the district could consider, Hansen said.
There's also "walk to" or "pull out" programs, where gifted students leave their main classroom to work in another classroom with other gifted students for a set amount of time.
Richland's Hi-Cap program has faced criticism from some parents in the past. Not all students who were eligible for the advanced classes at Lewis & Clark were included because of class size limits.
Others have said the district's way of assessing students is unfair, with students gifted in one area but not equally gifted in another being left behind.
Parent Matthew Barnett said the revised policy doesn't provide for programs at the high school level or cover all the needs for gifted middle school students.
"There seem to be some gaps," he said.
Parent Julie Robertson said she hopes the district provides ways for parents to be informed on what will be available to their children and that schools have clear direction on what must be provided.
Board members said they're trying to put the best programs possible in place but that it will be an evolving process.
"You learn as you go, it can't all be perfect," said board member Heather Cleary.
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver