The Franklin County School Board approved a program at last week’s school board meeting that would provide an alternative to out-of-school suspension for middle school and high school students.
Division Superintendent Mark Church presented the board with facts and findings about absentee rates in the schools and suggested that a secondary learning center would be more beneficial for students than out-of-school suspension.
“You can’t do well if you’re not in school,” he said. “Our whole purpose here is to get them back into the classroom.”
The superintendent explained that the division is held accountable for the student absentee rate.
For the 2017-18 school year, 12.43 percent of all Franklin County High School students missed more than 10 percent of the school year and 21.1 percent of students with disabilities missed more than 10 percent, according to Church’s presentation.
More than 350 students had over 10 unexcused absences and 47 students had more than 10 out-of-school suspension days.
For Benjamin Franklin Middle School last year, 10.55 percent of students missed more than 10 percent of the school year and 17.16 percent of students with disabilities missed more than 10 percent.
The division’s goal is to have 9 percent or less of all students to miss 10 percent of the school year and 14 percent or less of students with disabilities to miss more than 10 percent.
For a secondary learning center, Church suggested using a building that is currently a storage facility behind Benjamin Franklin Middle School. The building was once a behavior center before being used for storage.
The center would be used for students who are suspended for three to 45 days and will receive a hearing with a committee about the incident. Suspension recommendations for more than 45 days will go directly to the school board for a hearing.
For students with repeated disruptive behaviors, the school would provide documentation to the committee on why they did what they did to try to help the child correct misbehavior before referring them to the secondary learning center.
“In the policy, it explains that they have a right to a hearing and the student and parent have a written understanding of the infraction,” said Sue Rogers, assistant superintendent for the division. “So it’s the same process that we have done in the past, the difference is the committee that makes the decision.”
She added that the parent and student will come and meet with that committee within 24 hours of the incident. The committee may agree, disagree or modify the suspension and recommend placement in the secondary learning center. Parents or guardians can appeal the committee’s decision to the school board with a written appeal within three days of the committee hearing.
“It would be beneficial and helpful if we had a committee of individuals to hear the cases,” Church said.
The committee would be made up of a superintendent designee and other division staff. Board members can be on the committee if they wish to be.
Students who are truant would also go to the secondary learning center.
“What sense does it make for us to take a truant student and put them out of school because they’re truant,” he said.
When it comes to funding the center a total of $176,000 would be needed, although some of the funds are a one-time expense.
Church said $124,397 would be used from Title IV funding that is already available. The difference of $52,133 would be taken from the instructional budget.
He added that because so many young teachers were hired for the 2018-19 school year, funds for the remaining $52,133 can be found without cutting any instructional expenses.
The secondary learning center would only provide instruction for high school and middle schools students as well as students at the Gereau Center.
The center could fit about 30 students and, aside from instruction, will provide behavior modification and discussions with students about their behavior and what can be done to improve it.