LAFAYETTE — Superintendent Pat Cooper will ask the School Board on Wednesday to approve the “Opportunity School” for students enrolled in the district’s many alternative educational programs.
Cooper’s plans call for the new school to open in the fall as a satellite campus of Northside High School.
“The benefit to this is those kids represent 30 percent of the drop-out rate,” Cooper said. “We have looked at all the data. We don’t have good data from the alternative programs, meaning we don’t have much success.”
As a satellite campus, students enrolled in the Opportunity School could earn a diploma from Northside or have the option of earning a GED certificate.
The proposed school is one of several initiatives Cooper said he wants implemented in the upcoming school year as part of a district turnaround plan.
The board will vote on the Opportunity School and other turnaround proposals at its April 18 meeting.
Consolidating the alternative programs onto one campus enables the district to centralize the services students in the programs need, such as “counseling, parent training, medical attention and mental health attention,” Cooper said.
“We know they need smaller class sizes. We know they need to be in place where they know people love them enough to keep them, who will tell them the option of dropping out is not an option,” Cooper said. “That’s why we’re calling it an Opportunity School.”
Cooper said he expects his proposal to save money with the elimination of program supervisor positions, but some of that savings will be directed to staff student support positions, including such positions as dean of students, social worker, counselors and a nurse.
The estimated cost for the Opportunity School is nearly $1.13 million, but some of the personnel positions are in place, according to the district turnaround plan.
Renovations of the campus academic buildings, cafeteria, gym and auditorium are estimated at $1.25 million and the plan recommends using the school district’s capital projects budget to fund the project.
Based on enrollment in the programs now, Cooper said he expects about 400 to 500 students could be moved to the Opportunity School.
Enrollment would fluctuate when students who are sent to the Opportunity School for discipline issues fulfill the program requirements and return to their respective schools.
The school also may alleviate the stigma some students feel by being in one of the alternative programs, he said.
“Nobody has an identity as an over-age eighth-grader; you’re just a student at the Opportunity School,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the school could include grades K-12 and the following alternative programs:
“Second chance” at J. Wallace James Elementary for K-3 students with behavioral issues, two programs at the W.D. and Mary Baker Smith Career Center for over-age fifth- and eighth-grade students, a program for special-needs students with discipline issues at N.P. Moss Annex and the Alternative Instructional Model Academy at the former LeRosen Elementary campus for students in grades 4-12 who are recommended for expulsion.
The School Board created the AIM Academy in late 2010 after consolidating two separate alternative programs at a savings of $930,000.