The East Baton Rouge Parish school system has begun a blitz to recruit students who have dropped out or who are in danger of dropping out to take Internet-based coursework as an alternative route to a diploma.

The push, which includes letters and phone calls to their homes as well as public information meetings on Thursday and Saturday, is meant to attract students ahead of Oct. 1, the day one of two official enrollment counts for Louisiana public schools are taken.

But what the students are actually signing up for is not clear.

The School Board on Thursday put off until Oct. 2, at the earliest, a proposal to hire Dallas-based Grade Results to offer the dropout recovery and prevention service. While generally supportive of the idea in concept, several board members asked detailed questions and wanted more time to review the proposal.

Undaunted, Superintendent Bernard Taylor is recruiting students anyway. He’s calling the initiative “Moving Forward.” Students would come to school for half-days and take tests in school under a teacher’s supervision, but could do the bulk of their work online, outside of school any time of the day.

The program would allow students the chance to earn more credits in a shorter period of time than they would in high school. The school system would likely get increased graduation rates and the new program will likely free schools from having some of the more challenging students in their classrooms.

Grades for the students enrolled in the program would no longer be included when the state calculates their former high school’s performance scores. However, their scores would still be counted in the alternative school in which they are enrolled as part of the program, and again when the entire district’s performance score is calculated.

The goal of “Moving Forward” is to sign up 200 students initially, 50 who have already dropped out and 150 more who are in school now but are in danger of dropping out. The latter group needs to be at least 17 years old and have five or fewer course credits, a description that fits about 250 students.

Keith Bromery, spokesman for the school system, said the need for such a program is clear, and one will be offered “in some form or configuration regardless of the vendor that is eventually retained.”

The school system has not settled on an alternative approach to offering the service if there’s a further delay or if the board rejects hiring an outside vendor, he said.

Board member Barbara Freiberg said if Taylor provides sufficient information, the board can likely act soon, hiring either Grade Results or another vendor.

“I think we realize as a board that there is a sense of urgency,” Freiberg said.

Here are the details on the informational meetings later this week:

  • Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Instructional Resource Center, 1022 South Foster Drive.
  • Saturday at 10 a.m. at the McKinley Alumni Center, 1520 Thomas H. Delpit Drive.

For information, call (225) 922-5663.

Editor’s Note: This article was changed Sept. 29, 2014, to reflect a clarification. Grades for the students enrolled in this program would no longer be included when the state calculates their former high school’s performance scores. However, their scores would still be counted in the alternative school in which they are enrolled as part of the program, and again when the entire district’s performance score is calculated.