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Alternative school plan is a home run

Posted: October 29, 2011 - 11:10pm  |  Updated: October 30, 2011 - 12:07am

It’s a baby step, but like the one from the first moon landing, that single step is a giant leap.

The pilot plan approved by the Columbia County Board of Education Tuesday will route a small number of fifth-year high school students to a special program at the county’s alternative school. This idea, spearheaded by alternative school principal Dr. Ja’net Bishop, has “win” written all over it.

For example, it won’t cost much; maybe $1,000 in travel costs in the first year, as graduation coaches from the county’s five high schools take turns helping. Second, if successful, the program will help secure high-school diplomas for roughly 20 students who otherwise would be likely to flounder or drop out.

Perhaps just as importantly, though, such a program puts a foot in the door for using the resources of the alternative school for more than just punishment of misbehaving students.

Let’s face it: Not every low-achieving student is a discipline problem, but only students with discipline problems have access to the alternative school. Those resources are just waiting to be tapped.

We’ve long been a proponent of the expansion of the alternative school into a sort of “reverse” magnet school that would serve students who also struggle academically. Some board members at last seem to be warming to that idea, which eventually should include such things as a vocational component.

If the aim is to help more students succeed, this could indeed be a giant step toward that goal.

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