Shane Ludlow had been away from high school for more than a year and was working at a fast-food restaurant when he got a call asking if he wanted another chance at earning his diploma.
Ludlow, 19, dropped out of Whiteland Community High School his senior year. He had skipped class often; and by the time he dropped out in April 2013, he had 16 credits, fewer than half what he needed to graduate.
But school officials never forgot about Ludlow. And earlier this year, when Clark-Pleasant schools agreed to a two-year partnership with the Crossing Education Center, they mentioned his name.
The Crossing, which opened its first Johnson County campus along U.S. 31 near Whiteland Community High School this month, is a faith-based alternative program. Currently, The Crossing has 18 campuses in Indiana. The program could expand in Johnson County if other school districts partner with it, officials said.
Students attend classes in either the morning or afternoon and split their time between completing core courses, such as English and algebra online, and other courses such as personal finance, which they work with teachers to finish. Students also spend time each day talking with teachers and each other about what’s happening in their lives, such as how they’re getting along with their parents or friends.
Clark-Pleasant and Greenwood schools both committed to help run the new program for at least 35 current and former students who had been expelled or dropped out and weren’t attending regular classes anymore. Both school districts are passing along the money they would have received from the state for the students. The Crossing is using that money to pay for its three full-time teachers.
Any current or former Clark-Pleasant or Greenwood students who enroll in and complete the program will earn a diploma from their home high school. And if they graduate within four years, they will count toward their high school’s graduation rate, school development director Stan Good said.
Clark-Pleasant and Greenwood gave The Crossing a list of 50 to 100 students who had left school. Officials from the program called and sent letters to the students and their families, inviting them to the program so they could complete high school.
“Our target isn’t (students from) the schools. Our target is the streets,” Good said.
So far, 22 students, including Ludlow, accepted the invitations, and more are expected to enroll as they learn about it. The Crossing could fit up to about 50 students at its building in Whiteland, Good and campus administrator Rachel Miller said.
“It’s always hard the first year because people are still getting to know you,” Good said.
Clark-Pleasant and Greenwood officials wanted to partner with The Crossing to give students who had left their high schools another chance to earn a diploma. This is the first alternative program for Greenwood and the second for Clark-Pleasant, which already has about 60 students enrolled in its Clark-Pleasant Academy.
But Clark-Pleasant Academy enrolls students for all kinds of reasons. Some of them were truant from class or returning dropouts, but others are teen parents trying to raise their children or are completing school while battling illnesses.
All of The Crossing’s students are being invited back after having left or being expelled from high school, Good said.
After setting weekly goals with their teachers about what they’ll accomplish, students complete core lessons online at their own pace. They spend about 90 minutes each day on the computers and another 90 minutes working in small groups with their teachers on the personal finance and other non-core classes, Good said.
Between the online and in-person classes, students also spend 30 minutes talking with their teachers and classmates during what’s called family time. Conversation during this time can focus on relationships, friendships and overcoming challenges.
Students are encouraged to talk about anything happening in their lives. At the end of family time, the teachers read a Bible passage on the subjects that were discussed.
The Crossing also opens and closes each day in prayer, but the rest of students’ days is focused on completing their schoolwork, Good said.
“We don’t feel our role is to preach. Our role is to teach,” Good said.
The amount of time it takes a student to complete the program will vary. Some students come to The Crossing with almost all of their high school credits and need just one or two more. Others, including Ludlow, have more work to complete and will take longer.