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Strong finish: School officials plan changes to program

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More teachers will work with students enrolled in Franklin’s online alternative program next school year, and the high school is capping the number of people who can enroll.

In March, about 350 people in Johnson County were enrolled in the school’s Finish Strong program, which let them earn their high school diploma by completing online courses.

More than 150 people have graduated from Finish Strong. But the hundreds of students enrolled made it difficult for director and teacher Leighton and Sheila Turner to keep track of people who weren’t following the program’s schedule and who were again at risk for not earning their diploma.

At a glance

Franklin schools is changing the format of its online alternative academy. Here are the details:

The Old: Finish Strong

Who it was open to: Any students in Johnson County who wanted to take online courses to earn a high school diploma

Number of students who enrolled: About 350

Number of students who graduated: More than 150

The New: The Franklin Academy

Who it will be open to: Will continue to be open to Johnson County residents who want to earn a high school diploma online. Will now include freshman and sophomores at Franklin Community High School at risk of dropping out, as well as Franklin students who need to take online courses in order to graduate on time

Enrollment cap: The program will be limited to 180 freshman, sophomores and returning students. The cap doesn’t apply to Franklin students taking credit recovery courses

Staff: The program will have a full-time coordinator, two full-time teachers and a part-time teacher working exclusively with the freshman and sophomores

The Turners, who worked full time, are retiring this summer, and next school year Franklin Community High School principal Doug Harter is reorganizing the school’s staff so that the online program will have more teachers. That will include two full-time teachers and a part-time teacher, as well as a full-time coordinator who will follow up with students who aren’t completing their online assignments, Harter said.

The program, which is being renamed the Franklin Academy, will now serve more than students returning to earn their diploma. That includes freshman and sophomores who had been a part of a separate alternative program at Franklin, and juniors and seniors who didn’t quit high school but need help catching up on credits they’ve missed.

The academy will enroll about 30 freshman and sophomores who were previously a part of Franklin’s LAUNCH program, which was created for younger students at risk for dropping out. Also, upperclassmen at Franklin who haven’t dropped out but who need to take online credit recovery courses so they can graduate on time will now take them through the academy, Harter said.

Students already enrolled in Finish Strong who are keeping up with the online courses will be able to complete their work. But Harter eventually wants to cap the number of freshman, sophomores and returning students enrolled in the Franklin Academy at 180 students. That way the program’s coordinator will have an easier time intervening when students aren’t completing the online courses on time, Harter said.

“We need to do a better job of catching those students and being on them earlier so they don’t have time lapses,” Harter said.

One of the full-time teachers will be licensed in math and the other in English so that students who need assistance in either subject can get help, Harter said. Previously Sheila Turner, a retired English teacher from Edinburgh schools, was largely responsible for answering all of students’ questions.

The academy’s part-time teacher will work exclusively with the freshman and sophomores, Harter said.

The academy will still be open to residents of Johnson County who want to earn their high school diploma. While capping the numbers means fewer people can enroll at a time, staff will also encourage people to complete the program faster, Harter said.

Now if a student hasn’t logged in to the online courses within a week they’ll receive a call from the coordinator asking them how close they are to completing their scheduled assignments or taking a test. If they’ve fallen behind that call will help get them back on track by reminding them of the schedule or, if they need it, the coordinator can get them help with a particular subject. Then, if they decide to leave the program, someone else who wants to enroll can join, Harter said.

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