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County required to provide for at-risk students

By By SHERRY DIGMON
Advance Staff Writer
The State Department of Education has mandated that county school boards provide funding for programs to benefit at-risk students in grades K-12.
Twenty percent of the funding comes directly off the top of alternative school funding. In Escambia County, that translates to $59,613. According to the mandate, 20 percent of at-risk funds must be offered to community service agencies to provide after-school and summer programs in K-12.
According to Gloria Fowler, director of funded programs and school reform initiatives, the school board will be required to let bids to agencies to provide after-school and summer programs. Agencies may include, but are not limited to the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and local civic and charitable organizations.
That $59,613 represents quite a blow to the county's alternative school and career development (career tech) school.
But the picture gets even more dismal.
The school board now is also prohibited from funding 50 percent of the alternative school principal's salary through state or federal funding.
The state is shifting the focus from alternative schools to at-risk students in the schools.
The state has mandated that $298,065 be provided for programs at 11 county schools to benefit 2,513 at-risk students.
The 20 percent from the alternative school, $59,613, makes up a portion of the allocation, but the school board has to come up with the rest of the funds.
At the board's two budget hearings two weeks ago, personnel and several students from the alternative and career tech schools pled their case to the superintendent and the board, asking that their programs not be cut.
Superintendent Dr. Margaret Breland-Bradley did not suggest that anyone would lose their jobs. She did suggest that alternative funding might be found or that local funds could be used.
If the alternative school's funding continues as is for the 2000-2001 school year, the total cost of the program will be in excess of $318,000 with more than $242,000 of that amount going to salaries for one principal, two teachers, one GED teacher and one office aide.
The alternative school's enrollment in 1999-2000 was 28 students.
School enrollment was as follows:
n Escambia County Middle School – nine enrolled; 23 percent absences; two dropped out of the program.
n W.S. Neal High School – three enrolled; 45 percent absences; two dropped out.
n Flomaton Middle School – one enrolled; 13 percent.
n Escambia County High School – eight enrolled; 32 percent absences; five dropped out.
In the K-12 at risk programs which must be implemented this year, 2,513 students will benefit from $298,065 in allocations for after-school and summer programs.
An at risk analysis prepared by the State Department of Education shows the following break-down by school. Listed first are the numbers of at risk students at each school and the proposed allocation based on $118.61 per each at-risk student.
n A.C. Moore Elementary School – 214; $25,382.
n Escambia County High School – 312; $37,006.
n Escambia County Middle School – 415; $49,223;
n Flomaton Elementary School – 228; $27,043;
n Flomaton High School – 99; $11,742;
n Huxford Elementary School – 128; $15,182;
n McCall Junior High School – 72; $8,540;
n Rachel Patterson Elementary School – 450; $53,374;
n W.S. Neal Elementary School – 277; $32,855;
n W.S. Neal Middle School – 182; $21,587;
n W.S. Neal High School – 136; $16,131.
Students are determined to be at-risk according to Stanford Achievement Test scores, income eligibility, and the number of free and reduced price lunch eligible students at the end of the first 40 days of school.