KHS begins new after-hours program for at-risk students

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A new program at Kilgore High School will help students who otherwise may have to postpone their education due to various life situations.

The Gateway Program is an accelerated program that will help at-risk students earn their diploma outside of or in addition to traditional school.

“Basically, what you encounter every year is you have students who are at-risk for various reasons and may have trouble being successful in a traditional school setting,” KHS Principal Charles Presley said. “We’ve been talking about this for a while, trying to find ways to better meet the needs and to reach these students.”

Gateway will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday at Kilgore High School and use the Edgenuity computer-based program. Some students will enroll in Gateway only because work or other responsibilities prevent them from attending traditional classes. Others, though, will continue from regular KHS classes to Gateway courses.

There are multiple accelerated programs, Presley said, but many are more focused on getting students out of the school’s responsibility instead of helping each student graduate and be prepared for life after high school.

“We’re wanting to make sure not only do we give these students an opportunity to maybe recover credit that they’ve lost, to get back on track, to get a high school diploma, but in the process still prepare them to go out and be successful, to be able to move on to college, to be able to go out and get a job,” Presley said. “Within this program, we’re going to try to address all that. It’s not just about accelerating to get someone out; we want them to be equipped once they get that degree so they continue to go on and be successful and be educated and be prepared and be responsible citizens.”

Presley and KHS counselor Jennifer Hattaway have applied for a $30,000 grant that would cover the salaries (at $25 per hour) of two certified teachers to teach the after-hours classes.

The goal is to start the program in January for the start of the spring semester, if KHS is approved for the grant and finds the necessary teachers.

The two certified teacher positions are posted on the KISD website, and KISD trustee John Slagle told Presley he can come to the school board to request the $30,000 money for the program if they are not approved for the grant.

Speaking only for himself, Slagle said, “If it save one kid, it’s worth $30,000.”

In the first year, the program will focus on seniors and may include some juniors, but as the program grows, Presley said, he could see it including freshmen and sophomores as needed. All students will be required to apply for a spot with an admissions committee reviewing each application.

KHS counselors will work directly with students in the program, he said, noting there is a long list of reasons students could be considered at risk of not graduating, including ones related to grades, previous dropout instances, living situations, work, legal circumstances and family.

Of the 99 withdrawals during the 2016-2017 school year, 18 were dropouts, Presley told the KISD Board of Trustees during the Nov. 13 meeting. As the current school year continues, he noted the dropout number changes daily because students who withdraw from KHS are considered dropouts until KHS administrators receive a request for records from the new school the student has started attending following a move.

“We’ve got a need out there, and we’ve got to find a way to try to meet this need where we can prevent these students from becoming dropouts; where we can give them some incentives and create some hope for them to get a high school diploma to continue onto college, to go out there and be successful and have a career,” he said. “We think that this is something that’s worthy. We think it’s something that we need, and we hope that we get that grant and we can start piloting this program this spring.”

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