Some at-risk students may have new educational avenues open up to them in Excelsior Springs in the future.
On Monday night, the Excelsior Springs Board of Education granted tentative approval to a new alternative education program that would pair low adult/student ratios with specialized help in an effort to keep more local youngsters in the classroom.
According to Superintendent of Schools John Lacy, the program would be available to all levels and abilities, but would be designed for those who have had trouble in the classroom. Among these would be those who have been given short- and long-term out-of-school suspensions, as well as students with an individual education plan.
“We see a lot of benefit to this,” Lacy said. “This would be an alternative to removing students from school long-term, it will help on our MSIP 5 results and we could realize some savings because we could bring home some students that are currently contracted out for education assistance outside the district.”
The long-term suspensions put students particularly at risk, Lacy explained. While these suspensions are the results of disciplinary issues, the longer a student is out of school, the less likely it is that he or she will ever return. Offering an alternative education program would allow them to continue to work toward a diploma.
“We’ve talked about this before,” said board member Troy Snelling, “because we really are losing a lot of kids. Alternative education used to part of the program, and I think it’s a great idea to have alternative placement.”
Lacy thanked him for the support, but gave much of the credit for the plan to Director of Student Services Erin Oligschlaeger.
Board member Terry Krier asked whether the plan would be open to students with in-school suspensions, as well, and wondered how behavioral problems would be addressed.
Lacy explained that ISS would remain in the individual school buildings, and even the OSS students would probably have a threshold of a certain number of days out of school before they could enter the alternative education program.
For special education students, however, Lacy said it would offer far more options for education and any behavioral problems because it would allow those students to work closely with adults to address their issues.
Disciplinary problems would be kept at a minimum, he added, because there would be only about four students for each adult. Additionally, if a student is more disruptive than can be handled by the low adult/student ratio, then that student would be removed from the program.
Initially, Lacy said, he expected the program to have up to 20 students and about four staff members—two teachers and two assistants. The initial budget would be approximately $170,000, but there would be reimbursement from the state to help recoup some costs.
Board member Steve Houck asked if Lacy had any locations in mind, and he said there were a few potential sites—but he was waiting to hear the board’s general thoughts before pursuing the matter any further. With the board’s unanimous support Monday night, Lacy said he would begin considering options for not just location, but staff and transportation as well.
Doing some rough calculations, Snelling estimated that the program could easily result in a cost savings for the district, rather than an expense.
The school district has roughly 2,900 out-of-school suspension days annually, spread out among the schools and students, Snelling said. If even 80 percent of them used the alternative education program, Snelling pointed out, then the school district would still receive most of the state funding for the OSS students.
“So we wouldn’t lose those funds,” Snelling said.
“And it wouldn’t be a lost kid, either,” Lacy added.
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Snelling concluded.
By Eric Copeland • email@example.com