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Alternative Education Program discontinued

| Saturday, Aug. 11, 2001

An education program designed for disruptive and frequently tardy students has been dissolved in the Connellsville Area School District. The school board voted this week to discontinue it.

The Alternative Education Program was implemented on Dec. 4, 1997, for students who were considered disruptive or who often missed school, according to William Wilson, director of federal programs for the school district.

It was also for students who had difficulties adjusting to the regular education program, according to Jim Duncan, assistant superintendent.

'They could be academically challenged, having difficulties in the building with the teachers...absent more than they should be or if they just couldn't keep up with the work,' Duncan explained.

Wilson said that 30 students were enrolled in the federally funded program, and added that their participation in the program is what kept it going; their lack of attendance is what led to its downfall.

Two teachers, each with a student aide, led two separate classes, each consisting of 15 students, according to Wilson. The classes were housed in the Industrial Arts Building located near the Junior High West building.

Wilson explained that roughly $70,000 to $80,000 in federal funds were allocated each year for the program. However, the money was only issued on a quarterly basis.

Also, he said the money was only released for the students who were present at least once a week for a nine-week period. 'If they didn't attend, we would loose their per dollar amount.'

The per dollar amount for each student in the program averaged about $2,500, according to Wilson. 'If they came at least once a week, we got the funding. If they didn't attend, we got nothing.'

Wilson explained that the attendance became so poor that major portions of the grant money that was allocated couldn't be received, therefore, the program wasn't economical.

While some of the monies came from the grants, Wilson added that the district had to pay a portion of the teachers' and aides' salaries.

'But we still have placements in the Intermediate Program,' he added.

The Intermediate Program is a program that provides special education, psychological services, testing services and training for students in each of the six school districts in Fayette County. Wilson said that about one-third of the 30 students who were enrolled in the Alternative Education Program may be placed in the Uniontown-based program. 'That's what we'll be looking at. We'll see if some of our students can go there.'

Wilson explained that only several slots are available for each school district in Fayette County. And while the remaining students will be forced to enter back into the mainstream system, they won't be forgotten, Wilson said, noting student assistance programs are available.

He added that the students will be monitored very closely to ensure that success is the outcome.

Attempts to contact Superintendent Gerald Browell were unsuccessful by press time today.

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