New Milford schools may be upping the ante on the state's new mandated 25-credit requirement for high school graduation.

The mandated change would start with the Class of 2017 and New Milford is gearing up to meet that challenge and more.

Graduation requirements are now 22.5 credits at New Milford High School.

They would increase by one credit each year, starting with this year's sophomore class -- possibly going to 26 credits for the Class of 2017, this year's eighth-graders.

That 26th credit would be earned through the Capstone project -- a culminating activity during each student's senior year in which students demonstrate knowledge and skills in some real world application.

The goal would be to prepare graduates to enter the business or college environment with practical, applicable skills. Community mentors would be needed as well as advisors and a coordinator in the school.

The project would have three components -- field work, writing a research paper and creating a portfolio. The senior would finish with a presentation.

Board of Education member and retired teacher David Shaffer is opposed to the Capstone plan as presented.

"The state is not going to mandate the Capstone," he said. "For the first and second year we implement it, it should be optional. That way we can explore how it works with a smaller number of students."

Shaffer is concerned about costs equated to required staff and time for Capstone participation by 300-plus seniors. Fellow board member David Lawson shares his concern.

"One of the problems in this district is money. We have to take a hard look at finances," Lawson said. "We don't need 26 credits. We now have students do a research project in the 10th grade that is a year long. Why duplicate that?"

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Joshua Smith is a proponent of the Capstone project.

"There is a committee at the high school now developing the proposal," Smith said. "It's fairly prevalent in other school districts. We have the best practices already developed by those districts that went before us to draw on."

Smith added the Capstone project would fulfill a "career-type requirement where students have a structured, mentored experience in a community workforce."