Foothills seen as drop–out solution

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By Patrick Yost

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The Morgan County Board of Education is poised to become a member of the Foothills Education Charter High School association, a move that would enable at–risk students and easier path to earning a high school diploma, Superintendent James Woodard said.

The Foothills Charter is a “non–traditional public high school” that, Woodard said, tailors class instruction to at–risk students and other students who, for various reasons, have fallen behind.

“There’s a lot of reasons why kids get behind and this is an effort to help them.”

“They label it as a second chance high school.”

According to Woodard’s proposal, if the board agrees, Morgan County would join seven other counties in establishing a Foothills Education Charter High School on a campus of the Morgan County School system. The Foothills High School would offer classes and class work from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday on a year–round calendar. Students would be required to be between 14–years–old and 20–years–old and must have attempted the ninth grade before enrolling.

Woodard said there is no homework involved in the program and that students attend the classes to work on skills at their own pace with a 15–1 teacher ratio to help guide them through the work.

Woodard said the move was part of a drop–out recovery initiative.

Students who attend the Foothills Education Charter High School would receive a Foothills degree, not a Morgan County High School degree. Woodward said the Foothills program would provide no extra curricular activities and that the environment would be academic only.

The program, he said, currently has a 30 percent graduation rate.

“You’re working with kids who begin with a lot of risk factors.”

Woodard hopes to start the program in January and while the board gave tacit approval it did not hold a vote. To start the program the Morgan County System would give Foothills Education Charter, a program with administrative offices in Madison County, two annual payments of $50,000. However, Woodard said he had an agreement with the organization to provide Chromebook computers for its use in lieu of one of the payments. The computers would be used for students at the Morgan County Middle School as well and with the purchase would bring to the student to computer ratio at the middle school to 1–1.

Each year the Foothill Education Charter System provides refunds for member schools. Woodard said recently the system has been paying back each system $60,000 per year, although that is not guaranteed, he said.

“I’d like to have a better sense of how many kids are we going to affect,” Board Chairman Nelson Hale said.

“I like it. I see it as a win–win for everybody,” Board Member Erica Veasley said.

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