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Ripon continuation high school planned

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POSTED January 12, 2010 3:05 a.m.

RIPON - Plans for a continuation high school are on the drawing board for Ripon High in the coming school year that begins in August. It will be known as Harvest Academy.

High school counselor Mike Morenzone presented an outline for the educational program being designed to keep students in danger of failing and dropping out of school in the system and on track for graduation.

Morenzone made his presentation to the Ripon Unified School District Trustees at their regular Monday night meeting, noting that Ripon has never had a continuation high school in past years.

The continuation school would use two classrooms at the Community Day School located on West Main Street, and it would most likely be funded with a $100,000 Pupil Retention Block Grant through the California Department of Education.

Morenzone explained that there would be four structured classes in the mornings for 20 students and another four in the afternoon for the other 20.  Students wishing to earn more credits could take an additional two classes either earlier or later in the day for a total of six classes. During the first year of operation the school would be limited to serving juniors and seniors.

With the elimination of summer school, due to budget restrictions, the opportunities for students to catch up in their failing classes have been inhibited, Morenzone said.  And neighboring school districts do not accept students from other districts, because they are already impacted with their own student demands.

In last year’s summer school 80 high school students took English, 24 signed up for World History and 27 others had to take Algebra 1, the counselor noted. That summer school is no longer a reality in Ripon.

“We currently have 33 students failing first semester English, 58 failing World History and 20 failing U.S. History,” he stressed.

Ripon High School is expecting some 20 juniors and 10 seniors who will be credit deficient and should benefit from attending the proposed Harvest Academy.

Morenzone cited students with emotional instability and with specific medical issues who will require a less restrictive school site environment other than the traditional high school will benefit from the proposed program.   He also noted that the current financial situations have more students needing to work on a part-time basis and feel they have less time for school.

He offered that the spectrum of the varying disabilities has risen over the last few years, dictating the need for alternative educational settings.
At this time students requiring a different learning environment and those who do not qualify for Ripon’s Independent Study program are home schooled or enrolled in nearby charter schools, he said.

The independent study requests have grown from eight students three years ago to more than 30 students at the beginning of the current school year.  Students who turn 18 and are credit deficient often attend the Lindberg Adult School in Manteca with Ripon schools losing its average daily attendance funding from the state.

Morenzone said he visited a number of other high schools and their continuation programs saying that he found absences aren’t accepted – five absences and the students are out.  He explained that the reasoning behind the harsh ruling in attendance is that it was usually the lacking attendance that got students into their failing predicament.

Classes are expected to start with the first period at 8:10 running to 8:55.  The last class of the morning will end at 11:22.  The afternoon sessions begin at 11:37 and run until 2:49.  Only two minutes will be allowed for passing periods between classes, he said.

The application for the state block grant for funding the program is expected to be completed and ready at the February board meeting for the review and approval by trustees.

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