Sunday, January 10, 1999

Fairfield aims to help freshmen

Board studies two options

Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — Educators are looking at two options for an alternative program to help seventh- through ninth-graders who are having difficulty in school.

        Administrators from the middle, freshman and senior high schools are studying the Libertyville, Ill.-based Ombudsman Program, which op erates two sites in Hamilton County. The group also is looking at developing a program operated and staffed by the Fairfield Board of Education.

        “We began looking at this because we found we have a small number of students leaving the freshman building and going to the senior high without enough credits to be 10th graders,” said Maurice Godsey, president of the Fairfield Board of Education. “The bigger problem is: What do you do with them? You can't keep them in the freshman school forever. They're too old for the ninth grade.”

        Often that group of students is truant and accounts for much of the discipline problems at the senior high, Mr. Godsey said.

        “Hopefully if we get hold of them early, we can get them through the alternative setting so they're ready to be successful at the senior high,” Mr. Godsey said. “We're just in the beginning stages of this.”

        The alternative school would be geared toward students who have failed repeatedly in regular classrooms, in part because of poor attendance and other problems, educators say. It would be a last-resort alternative for students and would provide strong incentives for success.

        An in-house district program could cost $200,000 to $250,000 annually to provide spots for 40 to 50 students, middle school Principal Liz Griffel said. Three or four teachers would be employed, with one also serving as a part-time coordinator.

        Students would work on skills necessary to pass the Ninth Grade Proficiency Test, required for graduation, and could receive drug or alcohol counseling if necessary. Instruction in personal finance and community service also might be included.

        The Ombudsman Program, with sites in Cheviot and Forest Park, would cost $105,000 annually for 30 students. Students would be given diagnostic tests upon entry and would follow a plan designed specifically for them. Students would attend classes during one of three, three-hour blocks during the day, Mr. Polson said. Transportation would be the student's responsibility.

        “We really just started looking at this option,” Mrs. Griffel said.

        Under either scenario, class size would be kept low to provide students with individual help, Mr. Polson said.

        Mr. Godsey said administrators looking at the alternative program would periodically discuss their progress with the board's Education Committee. Depending on the committee's recommendation and the cost, a program could be put in place by next school year.


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