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TUSD approves at-risk program
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Early adolescence is no walk in the park, and for some the transition into adulthood is a rocky one. Instead of giving up on at-risk youths, the Turlock Unified School District is reaching out while significantly increasing its revenue from average daily attendance.

The “Bridge” program, an effort to support former TUSD 9th and 10th grade students who have been unsuccessful in the comprehensive school setting, is now in the works to provide a blend of textbook and online educational practices for the 2013-2014 school year.

“Currently, there is no alternative setting for placement of 9th and 10th grade students who are in need of direct instruction with support and a modified schedule to accommodate credit deficiencies and/or provide behavior modification,” said Interim Superintendent of Education Services Dana Trevethan.

Trevethan became concerned when she found that the local district had lost approximately 111 students to John B Allard, an alternative high school run by the county. She immediately began to seek ways to resolve the issue to ensure that all academic needs would be met regardless of the situation, in the Turlock School District.

Pitman and Turlock high schools have each designated a site on their campuses that will accommodate 30 students for the freshman and sophomore class range.  Fifteen freshmen will spend two hours per day on the campus in the afternoon, while 15 sophomores will attend three hours per day in the morning.

The district's hope is that the new location will prevent disruption for students arriving and departing from the school. Administration has matched the schedules to sync during non-instructional periods before and after school and during lunch to avoid distractions.

TUSD Trustee Eileen Hamilton, who has firsthand experience with at-risk students, believes that everyone deserves a second chance, especially at such a tender age.

“They need to have that opportunity to try again and excel,” said Hamilton. “I once taught at-risk students and it is important to me that they receive the same chances everyone else has. When I taught, many told me that they would never finish. Education may be all they have left. If we take that away from them, they no longer have an opportunity to succeed.”

Trevethan believes that choosing two teachers who possess multiple-subject credentials and experiences related to alternative education, technology and coaching will be the key ingredient to assisting the youth.

The district hopes that the program will help former students return to designated high schools through the credit recovery program, which would increase ADA. The “Bridge” program will cost the district up to $180,000 and generate an anticipated annual revenue of $204,900.

The TUSD Board of Trustees approved the program Tuesday night during its regular board meeting, and showered the proposal with optimism.

“I hope a year from now you can let us know how it is going,” said Trustee Frank Lima to Trevethan. “I am encouraged by the program and hope it comes into fruition.”

Trevethan specified that if the program succeeded, or even went beyond current expectations, they would expand the program to middle schoolers as well.