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District creating diploma program

Julie Sutor

SUMMIT COUNTY – Do you want to earn a high school diploma? Do you need additional credits to graduate? Do you want to experience an individualized educational program?

Summit School District officials are asking these questions and more of students who left Summit High School – or any high school – without a diploma.

“We’re sending a message from the district that we care: We care what happens to you. We care about your needs. We care about your future,” said Peggy Kastberg, the school district’s director of special programs.

District officials are taking the first steps to create a diploma program for young people who left school before graduating, and they want input.

The program would be housed outside the high school and would provide core academic classes and some electives in an alternative setting with small class sizes and lots of one-on-one instruction.

“The superintendent (Lynn Spampinato) wants to make sure it’s an excellent, state-of-the-art program. These kids deserve the best, like all our kids,” Kastberg said.

Officials are hosting a kick-off meeting 11 a.m. Monday at the Summit County Community and Senior Center just south of Frisco.

Kastberg is working in conjunction with Robin Albert of the county’s Department of Human Services to recruit as many young people as possible for the meeting.

“We want to ask, “Why did you leave school? What would make you come back? Where would you feel comfortable? How do you see yourself? If you could make changes in school, what changes would you make?'” Albert said.

Kastberg and Albert are visiting several school districts with established diploma programs.

They recently toured Red Canyon High School in Edwards, which is an alternative high school devoted exclusively to students who have dropped out of traditional schools in the area.

In its two buildings, the school educates 68 students, and 40 more are on the waiting list. Classes are limited to eight students, and there is ample one-on-one instruction.

Officials in Eagle County created the program three years ago to handle a revolving door of kids coming in and out of high school.

Summit High School loses about 20 students each year.

“It takes one key, full-time program to do that,” Kastberg said. “If we bring kids back full-time, we can really fund a nice, quality program.”

The district receives about $6,000 in state funding for each student enrolled during the annual student count on Oct 1.

Kastberg expects to have the program up and running in late January for about a dozen students. She hopes to attract even more students for the fall semester.

With strong enrollment, the district would have the funding to hire more teachers, support staff and an administrator for the diploma program.

“Part of our goal is to be able to offer other options for kids like counseling and job services. A lot of these kids need more than just the classroom instruction,” Kastberg said.

According to Albert, the diploma program will ultimately offer important educational and social opportunities not afforded by a general equivalency diploma, which some students may pursue after leaving school early.

“Functioning in a school community prepares you for the larger community. When you leave school, you become so disconnected. Everyone else continues to be involved and you’re home and you get left out. You don’t hear about the parties and the skiing,” Albert said.

Kastberg is eager to make the program accessible for students and parents whose first language is not English. Monday’s meeting will have a Spanish translator, and the program itself will make special accommodations for English Language Learner students.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at jsutor@summitdaily.com.


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