Lawrence School District Committee Proposes Creation of Alternative High School | News, Sports, Jobs


photo by: Dylan lysen

Patrick Kelly, left, director of technical education for the Lawrence School District, and Bill DeWitt, director of adult education services and alternative programs, address the Lawrence School Board in a meeting on Monday December 9, 2019. Kelly and DeWitt proposed establishing a college and vocational academy as an alternative high school option for Lawrence students.

An alternative high school program hosted at Lawrence College and Career Center could help cope with a drop in Lawrence School District‘s graduation rates, education officials said recently.

Patrick Kelly, director of LCCC and technical education for the school district, and Bill DeWitt, director of adult education services and alternative programs, on Monday proposed to the school board the creation of a college and a Career Academy as an additional alternative education option for high school students.

The school district previously operated an alternative school from 1974 to 2005. After that school closed, the district began offering many other alternative education options.

Some of these options are courses hosted at Lawrence College and Career Center, 2910 Haskell Ave., which opened in 2015. LCCC programs aim to help students develop skills for in-demand, high-paying jobs by offering Tuition-free college credit-worth courses, with instruction from business and industry professionals.

Kelly said she heard from students taking classes at LCCC that they would like to spend all of their time at the facility, an option that is not currently available. However, the creation of the College and Career Academy could change that.

“They see so much relevance at (LCCC) to their interests, and the idea that we could develop English courses related to it is very exciting for them,” he said.

Lawrence College and Career Center, 2910 Haskell Ave.

Kelly and DeWitt are members of the school board’s Alternative Options committee, which has been tasked with investigating and finding solutions to the recent drop in graduation rates in the school district.

Kelly said that in recent years, the school district has seen its graduation rate drop by almost 2 percent – from 84.2 percent in 2015 to 82.4 percent in 2018, according to reports from the Department of Education of the State of Kansas – while the state’s graduation rate rose to 87.5%. during the same period.

To address this issue, he said the committee – which was made up of 100 members divided into sub-committees to look at alternative program strategies – found that the school district might need to create an alternative high school offering plans for education. ‘individual studies focused on the development of professional skills.

The proposed academy would serve as a second year for high school students who choose to enroll. Kelly said the academy could help tackle the factors that lead students to drop out of high school, such as low motivation, irregular attendance and economic disadvantage, among other factors.

In addition to vocational skills education, the academy would also provide daily health and wellness education and academic support, research-based behavioral interventions, and adult academic mentors, among other supports.

DeWitt said the academy may need some enrollment restrictions, such as all students showing a lack of interest in the standard education program and ensuring that 50% of enrolled students have two of the three issues. : irregular attendance, delay in the credits required for graduation and academic underperformance. However, DeWitt said the academy could also enroll students who do technically well in the classroom but would greatly benefit from a different educational environment.

Kelly noted that the academy would not be a separate high school but an additional program for students at Lawrence High School and Free State High School. This means that students attending the academy could still participate in school activities and sports at their home high school.

“If (the academy) doesn’t work out for them, they could go back to their home high school,” Kelly said. “I think this is something that is in the best interests of our students.”

School board members said they were excited about the concept and asked district staff to work on developing the program.

“I think it’s fantastic and necessary,” said Jessica Beeson, board member.

But there is still a lot of work to do before the academy can become a reality. School district staff will be responsible for developing programs and courses, meeting staffing needs, and nominating students. Kelly said parking and classrooms at LCCC may also need to be addressed before establishing the program.

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