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Districts look at academy options

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Two school districts are considering whether adding a new, faith-based program would give 40 teens their last chance at graduation.

Clark-Pleasant and Greenwood schools are considering partnering with The Crossing, an alternative program that was started in Elkhart County about 10 years ago. The program is intended to help high school students who have been expelled, or who have discipline problems and aren’t likely to graduate if they stay in traditional classrooms.

Officials from both school districts would select the students they think would benefit the most from the new program.

Those students would likely go to a different building, where they would take online high school courses while also working with teachers on lessons they don’t understand.

The students would also meet regularly with staff and classmates to talk about issues, problems or challenges they’re facing outside of class.

The Crossing, which has been partnering with other school districts throughout Indiana over the last several years, also regularly conducts community service projects and partners with groups including Habitat for Humanity.

The program also provides career training in contracting and other fields for interested students.

The two school districts are considering sending up to 40 students to The Crossing, though neither school district has committed to join the program yet.

School officials are still reviewing the graduation rates from The Crossing’s other campuses, and talking with other Indiana superintendents who have worked with the alternative program.

The school boards from both districts could decide whether to approve the partnership in April, and students could start attending classes in the fall, Greenwood Superintendent Kent DeKoninck and Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said.

Students from either school district who complete the program will receive a diploma from their original high school. Both Greenwood and Clark-Pleasant schools said working with The Crossing would ensure more students make it to graduation, DeKoninck and Rains said.

“This is one more avenue, one more piece of the puzzle that helps them be successful,” DeKoninck said.

Last school year, Clark-Pleasant had about 36 high school students who dropped out or went to home school before graduating.

Partnering with The Crossing could give school officials another way to convince students, including those who aren’t interested in attending Clark-Pleasant Academy, not to leave, Rains said.

Clark-Pleasant already has an alternative academy, which has room for about 60 students. Some of those students are in the alternative academy because of behavioral or other problems at school or home, though recently more of the students enrolling in the alternative academy have been trying to work ahead to graduate early, or fell behind because of an illness, Rains said.

Partnering with The Crossing would give Clark-Pleasant a better chance of helping students who aren’t getting along with teachers or their classmates. They can be a part of the discussion groups and community projects that aren’t already offered at Clark-Pleasant Academy, Rains said.

Right now, Greenwood has no alternative program for students.

“Our goal is not to let any kids fall through the cracks,” Rains said.

To help fund the program, Clark-Pleasant and Greenwood will pass along state funding that the school districts would have received if the students had continued attending either school district, DeKoninck and Rains said.

Both school districts receive about $5,600 for every first through 12th grade student who attends their schools. Most of that money pays for employees’ salaries and insurance benefits, and both school districts would pass along that amount for each student of theirs that attends The Crossing.

Neither school district should lose money through the partnership, because the amounts they’ll provide The Crossing are amounts they would lose anyway if students who attend the program had dropped out, Rains and DeKoninck said.

Greenwood officials won’t force any students who are in danger of dropping out to enroll at The Crossing, but if the school district agrees to the partnership then students and parents need to know that an alternative program is available, DeKoninck said. DeKoninck believes that Greenwood will start by sending about 10 students to The Crossing. If any of the original 10 still opt to leave school, there will likely be others to take their place, he said.

“We think this just gives our parents and our kids another chance at an education,” DeKoninck said.

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