A state panel Wednesday began reviewing science standards used in public schools, which have not been changed since 1997 and are the third oldest in the nation.

The update, which was ordered by Louisiana's top school board, is overseen by a 39-member Standards Committee, mostly educators.

Under that panel are two work groups – 35 and 28 members – that will hammer out new benchmarks for students from kindergarten through eighth grade and high school respectively.

"They are going to be the ones in the weeds," said Cathi Cox-Boniol, a Lincoln Parish educator and chairwoman of the Standards Committee.

The first draft of the changes is due Nov. 7.

A final vote on the plan is set for Feb. 13 in New Orleans.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is scheduled to debate the changes at its March meeting, and the new guidelines could be in place for the 2017-18 school year.

The study could spark controversy because of concerns on how evolution and other subjects are taught.

However, the initial meeting in Pineville only sparked one public comment, and that one was praise for the study.

Cox-Boniol said the initial draft will be posted online for public review from Dec. 1 until Jan. 6.

"All the feedback will be reviewed, and it is important that that message be given to the public," she said.

The science review is the second of its kind in recent months.

BESE earlier this year approved revisions to Louisiana's math and English standards after a review in 2015 ordered by the Legislature because of controversy over Common Core.

Standard represent what students should know by the end of a course or grade.

"We are not here to discuss curriculum, we are not here to discuss assessments," Cox-Boniol said. 

"We are going to be addressing standards only," she said. "Let's make sure that is clear."

The K-8 and high school work groups planned to start work Wednesday afternoon and Thursday.

The K-8 group is headed by Heather Howle, an educator in West Feliciana Parish.

The high school study group is lead by Rhonda Matthews, an educator in the Iberville Parish School District.

Jeanne Burns, a top official of the state Board of Regents and a member of the Standards Committee, said regents officials have set up a call next week with colleges and universities on how those officials can be a part of the science review.

"We anticipate that they will be very much involved," said Burns, who is assistant commissioner for teacher and learning initiatives.

Joseph David, a principal in Sulphur and a member of the Standards Committee, praised teachers serving on the review panels.

"You have a lot of pressure on you, just listening to all these people's comments," David said.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.