We believe the decision by the Ashland Independent School District to re-establish an alternative school is a good idea.

Daily Independent reporter Mike James reported in Tuesday's edition that the alternative school will serve two groups of at-risk students at the middle-school and high-school levels. They include kids with overwhelming academic difficulties and those with disciplinary problems that bar them from regular classrooms.

Superintendent Sean Howard said the school will serve roughly two dozen students at a time on a rolling enrollment structure. Some students will remain for a few days and others for longer periods, up to the entire academic year.

“Some kids work better in a smaller environment and for some it would be an alternative to out-of-school suspension,” Howard said.

The goal of the program is to prevent students from dropping out. We are a strong believer in this proposal. We all know that when a student drops out of high school it has devastating consequences. Consider for a moment how hard it is now for young adults with four year college degrees to get good, stable jobs. It obviously, then, is critical that our schools and communities do everything possible to keep kids from dropping out. The decision to drop out is about the worst decision a young person can make. Anything the district can do to prevent such a scenario, even if it prevents one student from dropping out, is worthwhile.

Howard said he proposed the alternative school at the request of leadership at Paul Blazer High and Ashland Middle School.

The school is expected to be placed at the South Ashland Family Resource Center. The center is located at Charles Russell Elementary School.

“An alternative school can be a wonderful tool . . . if it’s run properly. I’ve seen them run properly and inappropriately. I don’t want to put kids in front of computers and expect them to sit there all day long without interaction with teachers,” board member Patsy Lindsey said adding the alternative school "is an opportunity to work their way out and back into the mainstream.”

The school will be staffed by two teachers. One would be transferred from one of the schools and the other would be a new hire. Some expenses for computer hardware and software are to be expected -- the school board approved the alternative school unanimously, and also approved a $7,500 stipend for an administrator.

This is a good idea. We are sure logistics and location could always be debated, but Ashland school district leaders are to be credited for pursuing this effort to keep kids from dropping out of school. This is an endeavor that, in the long run, will dramatically help kids.

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