Board OKs school for troubled students 2000 is goal to open 'alternative center'

September 25, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

Howard County school board members approved a proposal yesterday for an alternative school that would serve the district's most troubled students.

The "alternative learning center," which officials hope to open by fall 2000, would target students with behavioral and emotional problems and would house three programs.

School staff members removed a program for emotionally fragile students from the original plan after school board members raised concerns about placing vulnerable children alongside disruptive ones.

Officials said they would present a separate plan for that program -- the Alternative Setting for Students with Emotional Problems (ASSEP) -- to the board later.

ASSEP would serve students who suffer from depression, eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive behavior.

"The need for the ASSEP program has not gone away," said Eugene Streagle, instructional coordinator in charge of high schools. "That is a population that we need to serve."

The number of staff members originally proposed for the other three programs also was reduced by using shared positions.

For example, they would share employees such as administrative workers, a pupil personnel worker, custodial and secretarial staff members, health and media service workers and art teachers.

The elimination of the ASSEP program and the staff reduction reduces the proposed operating budget for the alternative center from about $3.7 million to $2.7 million. The center would include: An expanded Gateway School, which serves about 100 middle and high school students who were "extremely disruptive" in their regular schools.

The Bridges Program for children who are served by the Howard County Extension Program for Students with Emotional Disturbance.

The Passages Program, a restrictive environment for the system's most violent students.

The school board also heard a report yesterday on the 1998 summer school program, in which enrollment increased at every grade level from the previous year.

Elementary school enrollment rose to 245 students from 204 in 1997; middle school enrollment increased to 229 from 140; and high school participation increased to 560 from 512.

This year was the first that every student was required to pay something for summer school.

Students who received free or reduced-price lunch were granted tuition waivers in past years, but were charged from 5 percent to 75 percent of course costs, depending on their financial situation.

Guardians were allowed to pay in full or in increments.

Pub Date: 9/25/98

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