Web gives students a second chance

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— The Hayden School District wants to give former students a second chance.

An Internet program called S.M.A.R.T. Schools will give students who have dropped out of high school the opportunity to still graduate with a high school diploma.

Students who no longer attend classes but want to graduate are encouraged to sign up for online classes that will allow them to earn enough credit to graduate.

"We really need something like this," Hayden High School Principal Nick Schaefer said. "These are kids that will never come to school, and it is a really good foundation of education for these kids."

Many of the students who have dropped out now work full-time jobs which do not allow them to come to school during the day to take the online courses.

Students enrolled in the program would be given a computer to work on at home.

Students who refuse to come to school often say that they don't belong in a traditional setting or feel like outcasts, Schaefer said.

"They can't fit in, and they don't want to fit in," he said.

Online courses would omit the classroom setting from the learning process, while still providing accountability, Hayden Superintendent Scott Mader said.

Teachers will be able to tell how much work students spend at their assignments in addition to checking their online work. Time spent each day at the computer might range from one and a half to two hours, Mader said.

"They won't be able to just sit in front of a blank screen without us knowing that they didn't do anything," Mader said.

Assessment tests will first be conducted to determine students' ability level.

"We will work from there to bring them up to the level they need to be," Mader said.

Courses in grammar, reading, spelling, vocabulary and math will be offered to students, but students must be able to read at a fifth grade reading level, he said.

Studies show that 70 percent of students enrolled in the courses finish, Mader added.

At least six students might be interested in taking the online courses, he said.

"These kids want to come back to school," Mader said.

Students who want to get their diploma would be able take electives like art and P.E., in addition to online courses, to complete graduation requirements, Schaefer said.

"You have to get a little creative with these kids," Schaefer said. "It's good for us and for them if they can end up with a high school diploma."

Computers costing the district about $75 to $100 will be sent to the families of the student wanting to take the classes.

"Instead of choosing to drop out, this will keep them," Board Member Kelly Hayes said. "It shows them another way of education."

If students enroll by Oct. 1, the school receives per pupil money to cover the expenses, Mader said.

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