Russell is among the school districts racing to be first in Kentucky to raise its dropout age to 18 under legislation that eventually will require all districts to do so.
To be among the first 57 districts to take the step, and in so doing collect $10,000 from the state for planning the changeover, Russell’s board is planning on a midnight meeting on the first day it will be allowed to take the action.
That day is June 25, and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway issued an opinion that, based on the adjournment of the General Assembly on March 26, the legislation “will be effective on the first moment” of June 25.
Foreseeing that other districts will be scrambling to raise their dropout age as soon as possible and snag a piece of the grant pie, the board agreed Monday to introduce the issue at its May meeting.
Assuming the board votes in favor of raising the dropout age, that would set it up for final passage on June 25, and board members agreed to meet at midnight so approval of the issue would go on the record within minutes after that.
“I’ll probably have to set my alarm,” quipped board chairwoman Judy Ledford.
Schools that get the grants will be able to use them for planning and programs to smooth the way for keeping students in school.
Russell doesn’t have many dropouts, Ledford said, but wants to retain the few who do.
Also, the higher dropout age is symbolically important in a district that prides itself on being academically preeminent in the region. “We lead in a lot of things,” Ledford said. “We always want to set an example.”
Raising the dropout age will remain voluntary until 55 percent of districts have done it, and then the rest of the districts in the state will have to follow suit within four years.
The change would take effect in the 2015-2016 school year if Russell enacts the policy this year.
The money for the grants comes from a $570,000 state fund for school retention purposes.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.