Discussion on assuming operation of the alternative high school were addressed by members of the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education during their regular meeting on Nov. 21. The matter was included as part of the consideration of approval for Allowable Growth/Spending Authority applications.
Joynt referred to a copy of last year's Modified Allowable Growth Application for Drop-out Prevention. Academic Supports (like early intervention and tutoring), Personal/Social (such as drug and violence prevention and mentoring), and Career/Community (like vocational training and work experience) were listed as means of assisting elementary, middle and high school, and alternative school students to remain in school and succeed.
The superintendent briefly noted that students are identified as being at-risk due to attendance issues, low achievement, no connection to school, etc.
"Last year, 14-percent of our kids were deemed at-risk and we had a certified enrollment of 696," said Joynt. "We'll have fewer students next year by about 30 and we'll have to figure out what our percentage of at-risk is."
Joynt then reviewed the school district's Budget Proposal for the 2011-2012 academic year.
"Classified staff salaries will increase because, later, I will ask the board to take over the responsibilities of the Alternative High School," said Joynt. "Currently, the district contracts the alternative school's service through Iowa Lakes Community College, which is very expensive. I will show that we can do it much more efficiently."
Paraprofessional salaries and employee benefits will also increase, as well an increase from 2.8 teachers to 3.8 teachers.
"Last year, we budgeted $75,000 for this school year, but it will actually be $95,000, and that's where the concern is: this big jump in cost," Joynt explained. "The whole program is about $280,000, and we carried over $21,000, so we'll subtract that, which leaves us with about $188,000, which can be taxed, to run the drop-out program this year."
Joynt also referred to a second allowable growth application to cover the cost of five students moving into the district this summer and open-enrolling out.
"We're paying to educate them in a district some place else and we have no income for them, so of the $29,415 that we're spending on them, we can tax for next year in property tax," Joynt explained. "That will be about 10-cents per thousand on your tax bill."
Board member Karla Anderson wondered why the district had "under-budgeted" $20,000 for the alternative high school.
"More kids went to the alternative high school," said Joynt. "It's frustrating. We get kids going to the alternative high school who haven't even been in our building. They move into the district, they're living with a relative, we're responsible for educating them, they've been in an alternative school, and they go out there."
"And you think we can bring a program here in this building?" asked Anderson.
"No, not here," Joynt answered. "It could be in the same place that it is now, but we would hire the teacher. One of the advantages is that they could come to our building in the afternoon and finish the day here."
"So, we have 14.8-percent deemed 'at risk'. What percentage dropped out last year?" Anderson asked.
"Five-percent dropped out last year," High School Principal Jay Jurrens answered. "The statewide average is ten-percent."
"Five-percent drop-out is a big number for us," noted Joynt.
Board member Tammy Naig asked if that number is creeping up. Jurrens replied that, yes, it is.
"We went for years with zero drop-outs," Jurrens added.
Students are required by law to attend school until age 16 (and finish the school year they started if they turn 16 during school).
"So, our drop-outs are 17- and 18-year olds who have chosen not to continue," said Naig.
"Most of them are probably those who went through four years of high school somewhere and in their fifth year decided they couldn't do it," Jurrens shared.
Anderson wondered if the students were in their fifth year because of credit issues. Jurrens replied "yes."
"There are a lot of students out there who realize they may have three or four more years of school to be able to get the credits they need to get a diploma and they decide they can't do it," said Jurrens.
"And that counts as a drop-out for us?" asked Anderson.
"If they go to school for one day here or out there, it counts for us," Jurrens stated. "We certainly do have students here that have dropped out, too."
"What's the criteria for going to the alternative school?" asked Kathy Roethler, board member.
"They have to meet with me and they have to be 16-years old and behind in credits, or I strongly believe they will not graduate on time," Jurrens answered.
"What happens if you deny them access to the alternative high school?" asked Naig.
"Well, they have to either go here [Emmetsburg High School] or drop out," said Jurrens. "On the plus side, there is only seven students at the alternative high school right now."
With no further discussion, the board unanimously approved the Allowable Growth applications for Dropout Prevention and School Budget Review Committee.
"Board action is required to move forward with the allowable growth applications for Dropout Prevention and School Budget Review Committee," began Superintendent John Joynt. "Both applications are for programs funded entirely with property tax. The final decision to fund the programs will be in March when we finalize the budget for 2012-2013."
Joynt added that if the board is concerned about taxes, they should approve the applications for allowable growth so that they can receive the spending authority and then reduce the tax reserve levy.