The Lowndes County School District board of trustees was given a presentation on the districts Alternative School at Friday’s regularly scheduled board meeting.
The presentation, requested by trustee Jacqueline Gray, gave board members an overview of the school, which has been housed at the former West Lowndes Middle School since 2014.
Students are placed in the Alternative School following discipline that takes them out of normal classrooms. The school’s goal is to help rehabilitate students so they can return to regular classes and keep them on pace academically during suspension.
Through 2013, LCSD sent their Alternative School students to the Columbus Municipal School District Alternative School. Now, LCSD takes in students from Noxubee County Schools, in addition to their own.
In its inaugural year, the county Alternative School housed 72 students, according to principal Charlie Jackson. Only one — a third grader from New Hope — had to return to the school this year.
“This year we’ve had 20 students assigned to the Alternative School,” Jackson told the board. “We’ve already returned two of those back to West Lowndes High School.
“One of the things that I think is indicative of what the kids are doing — we’ve had kids make dramatic improvements in their STAR reading and math scores,” Jackson said. “We’ve also had two kids complete courses in four-and-a-half weeks, semester long courses. One was mythology and one was pre-algebra, both received scores of a ‘B.'”
Jackson said of the 20 students they have at the Alternative School, 11 are facing pending charges in youth court. He is unsure how long those students will be there.
“Are we meeting the needs that you see at this time?” asked trustee Wesley Barrett.
“I think we would certainly love to get more counseling if we could get it,” Jackson replied. “A lot of those children have some deep-seated problems and maybe more counseling would help. But we’re trying as a faculty and staff to work with those problems. But we’ve been doing good because we haven’t had any suspensions this year. We’ve been able to deal with those issues in house.”
Jackson said Alternative School faculty will begin meeting with parents Monday. Each week the Alternative School sends a progress report to each students’ home building. All students in the school will be receiving a 45-day review to determine if they are ready to return to their home buildings October 7.
He noted that 50 percent of students enrolled at the county Alternative School would have been kicked out of other districts entirely because they are facing felony charges. The students are searched for contraband before boarding a bus to the school and upon arrival, Jackson said. He told the board he sees no negatives to the school or its programs.
This year, approximately $759,000 was budgeted for the school, though some of that money is used in other buildings throughout the district for paraprofessional help with Alternative School students when in their home building. Last year, LCSD spent $615,127 on the Alternative School, according to assistant superintendent Dr. Peggy Rodgers.
The 20 students currently enrolled at the school include: five from Caledonia High School; one from Caledonia Middle School; seven from New Hope High School; one from New Hope Middle School; one form West Lowndes High School; one from West Lowndes Elementary School and four students from Noxubee County Schools.
In other news
Architect Joey Henderson told the county school board Friday he would like to begin advertising for bids for the field house at Caledonia High School beginning next Monday. The board voted 3-1 to approve the advertising of bids — Gray opposed, board president Jane Kilgore was absent Friday.
Henderson said Lowndes County will charge the district around $280,000 to buy the asphalt for the Caledonia parking lot.
He also requested permission to advertise for bids for the expansions to West Lowndes Elementary and High School included in the $44 million bond issue. The board voted 3-1 to approve the advertising — Gray opposed.
The board went into executive session to discuss personnel, legal and land purchasing matters. No action was taken on land purchase, but the board is continuing to debate the site of the $11 million career-technical center that was a major driving force in the $44 million bond issues. Henderson had previously requested the board decide on a site by August.