JTHS Sees Graduation Success with At-Risk Program

Board members heard a report Tuesday on the number of students who return to their home school after going to Lincoln School.

Of the 20students transferred to an alternative school last year because of behavioral problems, 75 percent of them received their high school diplomas, school board members were told Tuesday.

Lincoln School is an alternative education program overseen by the Will County Regional Office of Education and is tailored specifically for at-risk students who might not otherwise graduate, said Kelli Bettenhausen, coordinator of Joliet Township High School District 204's Youth Experiencing Success in School program.

Of the five who did not graduate, three left to pursue a GED, two were expelled and one was removed for lack of attendance, she said.

While the district's goal is to "see all of our kids graduate," Bettenhausen said she was encouraged by the data and would like to increase efforts to help at-risk youth, including identifying them earlier, assigning mentors and tapping other community resources that might help students be successful.

Part of that effort involves working with the district's feeder schools to identify which students would benefit from what resources, she said.

"This year, we received lists from every school about students with truancy problems," Bettenhausen said.

But school board member Earl Peterson said there's a financial downside to sending students to schools outside the district. State money District 204 might be collecting to educate a student gets shifted to the county when a student is transferred to Lincoln School, he said.

His preference, Peterson said, would be to replicate the county's program within the district.

Supt. Cheryl McCarthy said that wasn't a viable option because both and campuses are at capacity in terms of space.

If that's the case, Peterson countered, then those students with identified behavorial problems should be sent to Lincoln School immediately, rather than being place in a district school and then transfrerred.

"Some of those kids should never have come into our schools in the first place," he said.

When several board members pointed out that the district does not have the legal option to turn away students, Peterson suggested the district approach legislators about sponsoring legislation to change it.

"We can change the law; it's silly what we do," Peterson said.

Bettenhausen disagreed.

"Every child is important to us in our community," she said.


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