Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Alternative School Working, Needs Support, Officials Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Alternative School Working, Needs Support, Officials Say

Article excerpt

Students in the Kirkwood School District's alternative school are improving their grades, behavior and attendance, administrators of the program say. But to keep the alternative school in operation, the district will need to provide more money because state financing is decreasing.

The alternative school, housed in Kirkwood High School's academic lab, targets middle- and high-school students who have a record of poor grades and attendance, are disruptive or are teen-age mothers. In the year just ended, 39 students took part.

The alternative school's schedule was 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The modified schedule allowed older students to work part time and younger students to volunteer. This year the program cost $86,134. The district allocated about $30,000, and the state paid the remainder, says Judy Kemper, director of instructional services. Although next year's costs are expected to increase to about $98,000, the state is expected to cut back its contribution to $48,000, with the district paying the remainder, Kemper says. Four teachers are responsible for the students in the alternative program. Every student has a different learning plan. By individualizing the learning process, students become successful, says Debbie Coco, a ssociate principal at Kirkwood High School. Their grades improve, attendance increases and behavior problems decline, she says. Coco attributes part of the program's success to this year's cooperative effort with the juvenile-court system. Officers met with students and led discussions on controlling anger, drugs and alcohol and decision-making. "They worked very personally with these students," Coco said. As a result, fewer students were sent to the principal's office for discipline problems. In the 1995-96 school year, 166 office referrals were made for students before they started in the alternative program, Coco says. …

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