Freshman Academies could be on the way to Bolton and Peabody

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Over the last five years low graduation rates at Bolton High School and Peabody Magnet High School have caught the state's attention. Recently, they mandated the Rapides Parish School Board come up with a comprehensive intervention plan.

"Six out of ten kids at best are graduating from high school that start with us in the ninth grade there," said Director of Secondary Education Dr. Dana about Bolton High School.

It's a plan that will focus on the transition from eighth grade to ninth grade.

"The freshman academy is a research based practice," said Superintendent Authement. "It's been shown to have very high success in ensuring the success for our kids academically in high school and preparing them for the rigors of high school coursework."

Freshman Academies will have their own administration including an assistant principal, lead teacher, guidance counselor and mentor coach.

"It is a school within a school," Dr. Nolan said. "It's located in a different area within the campus and it has dedicated staff supported too, and structures within that academy to support students."

Dr. Nolan also presented parents with the proposed Career and Tech Education program that would be placed at Peabody.

"Two-thirds of our students when they graduate, they are not going to college. So what are they going to do? They are going to work. So, we need to put in their hands something they can go into those high wage, high skilled, high demand jobs that our local community is asking for."

It's an extension of the Jump Start program already in place at high schools like Tioga and Buckeye.

"We are not taking anything away, just adding to," Dr. Nolan said.

Eventually, interested students at other high schools will be bused to take tech classes at Peabody.

Some parents that attended the open forum were pleased with the plans.

"I think we are implementing something new, and I think the kids would be very proud to have something new in their communities," said parent Sheila Robinson.

A few were skeptical.

"I don't think it has been well thought out at this point," said parent Jack Henton.

He said he thinks there are more things that need to be considered when thinking about low graduation rates.

"They talked about the social issues but it's more of a social economic issue and until we start addressing the economic disparities in these communities, we are not going to get a good solution," Henton said.

However, Authement is optimistic and hopes the board passes the plans next week.

"Through the implementation of this initiative, we are very optimistic that it is going to help prepare our kids for success through high school and beyond.

Both plans will go before the full board on Tuesday, March 6.

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