The Zachary Community School District is receiving part of Louisiana Department of Education’s Building Pathways to High School Diplomas for Students with Disabilities Opportunity Grant funds, it was announced Dec. 2.

The 66 districts and charter schools receiving the nearly $4 million in funding will use it to improve graduation rates, provide career preparation as well as opportunities for students with disabilities after high school, a news release said.

Approved for the funding are 55 school districts, 10 charter schools and the Louisiana Schools for the Deaf and Visually Impaired.

“These grants will allow districts and charter schools to better maximize the educational experience for students with disabilities, offering them an increased opportunity at success after high school with a diploma,” said state Superintendent John White. “It is expected that this will further the progress made, ensuring all students can pursue a high school diploma that prepares them for meaningful post-secondary experiences.”

According to the DOE, the most recent data shows a growth of more than 7 percentage points in high school graduation rates among students with disabilities, from 29.3 percent in 2010-11 to 36.7 percent in 2012-13.

In 2014, the Legislature established an alternate diploma pathway for students with disabilities, the release said.

Zachary schools will receive $50,050, while the nearby Central Community School District will receive $40,824. East Baton Rouge Parish schools are to receive $91,200.

The funding will provide students with disabilities the necessary equipment and access to career preparation experiences; establish new partnerships with local businesses in providing hands-on workplace experiences while adhering to Jump Start Internship Guidelines; train and certify career education professionals through channels, such as the Jump Start Super Summer Institute; and provide research-based curriculum and high-quality instruction for students assessed on LAA 1 (LEAP Alternate Assessment, Level 1).

Districts and charter schools receiving the grant awards also will be expected to increase district and school collaboration with Jump Start regional teams while supporting student success, which will lead to more students with disabilities graduating with an industry-valued credential through a Jump Start pathway, the release stated.

Grant recipients will operate through September 2016.