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Programs for delinquents, potential dropouts combined

August 12, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - An alternative school that deals with students at risk of becoming dropouts will be merged with a state-operated program that helps juvenile delinquents, according to a Jefferson County Schools spokeswoman.

On Tuesday, the Jefferson County Board of Education decided to move the Alternative Education Center in with the state-operated Students Out of School (SOS) program, which works with teenage delinquents, youths on probation and students suspended from school, said spokeswoman Liz Thompson.

There are a number of advantages to blending the two programs, said Thompson.

The SOS program is strong in counseling, but does not have the teaching resources of the alternative school, said Thompson.

School officials believe that allowing the two programs to share resources will go a long way to turning around at-risk kids, Thompson said.

The Alternative Education Center works to reduce the county's dropout rate through programs such as "SUCCESS," in which students participate in courses designed to build their self-esteem.

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But because the Alternative Education Center is at Jefferson High School, it can only hold classes in the late afternoon and evenings after regular courses are over, according to Thompson.

By moving the Alternative Education Center to the Students out of School program, it can be offered during regular school hours. That is important in the Alternative Education Center's effort to closely resemble a regular school setting, Thompson said.

The idea is to return students to regular classes after they successfully complete the program at the alternative school, said Thompson.

Also, the Board of Education would be able to provide transportation to and from the facility. Because the Alternative Education Center's classes currently run until 6:45 p.m., service currently is only to the center.

"There are a whole bunch of positives," said Thompson.

School systems in the Eastern Panhandle have wrestled with dropout rates above the state average despite efforts to reverse the numbers.

About 103 students dropped out of Jefferson County Schools in the 1997-98 school year. Jefferson High School has about 1,600 students.

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