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Lamar’s At-Risk Students Getting a New Option

Lincoln School May 2016

By the fall semester of this year, a portion of the Lincoln School on North 10th Street in Lamar will be devoted to students who are at-risk of either failing or dropping out of school.  RE-2 School District Superintendent, David Tecklenburg, said this will not be a typical ‘brick and mortar’ school, but a new program being developed by Anthony LaTour who has considerable experience in similar projects through his past association with the County Department of Social Services and youth programs.

Tecklenburg said the local district and LaTour will spend the summer outlining the type of curriculum that will become available, “Anthony will be meeting with other similar schools in the state to see how they operate and what will be the best options to apply to this alternative program.” The superintendent explained that the program will be open to middle school and high school students.  “Our hope is to get them caught up with their grades and back into the regular curriculum.  If we have students that failed classes in middle school, the chances of them succeeding when they reach high school are not very high when they make that transfer.  We are using this program to help them before they get to that point.”  He added the classroom will be geared to about 20 to 25 students at the outset and explained that he expected the attendance to increase in the first two years of the program, as needed.

LaTour said these classes will offer a mix of subjects that aren’t traditional book learning, but will still count for academic credit. “The students will have online classwork and it will be experiential learning, more hands-on in its approach and we’ll also introduce the students into a crossroads program.”  He said he’ll meet with students and their families to discuss the options available in the program.  “It’s not mandatory, but it’s a good choice for some students who are having problems.”  Tecklenburg added that it’s an attempt to stem a student from dropping out of school, “By state law, students must attend classes until they’re 17 years old.”  Students will still follow the daily classroom schedule of the middle and high schools.  Some options include attending the welding program at Lamar Community College, as well as FFA, Ag studies and metal or woodworking classes.

LaTour said this will be a new situation for him, “It’s a change of pace for me, getting acclimated to the new challenge. This will be an opportunity for these at-risk students to gain an option to continue and finish school.”  He mentioned that the county demographics for the poverty level points to difficulties in learning.  “My experience in human services showed one of the most easiest predictors of a poverty situation are a lack of education. We have twice the state average on poverty rates and these students are a prime example.  With a lack of an educational path, the chances they’ll remain at a poverty level can follow them into adulthood.  We hope this program can offer a fuller tool belt for a chance of success.”

Tecklenburg said the funding for the first year of the program will be half from the federal government and half from the district’s general fund, “I’m looking into several programs for complete grant funding and there’s a program that helps with grants at no cost, and we should qualify for this.” He added that the summer will be used for an orientation period, to acquaint parents and students with the proposal instead of going in cold on the first day of classes.  LaTour added, “I’m excited to be serving the students and their families in this capacity.  I believe in the mission of the Lamar School District.  We had two of our older kids graduate in 2013, and it’s pretty special to me to be able to help develop this project.  I’m glad to be on board and looking forward to becoming an asset to the school district.”

By Russ Baldwin

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Filed Under: AgricultureCity of LamarCollegeEducationFeaturedSchoolYouth

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