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Publish Date: 4/14/2005

Principal praises youth program
Expanding alternative to suspension urged


LONGMONT — An alternative to suspension program implemented this year at three area high schools has been fairly successful, Longmont High School principal Mary White told the St. Vrain Valley Board of Education on Wednesday night.

The program, for students in violation of the St. Vrain Valley School District’s alcohol and drug policy, reduces their suspension from five days to three. It also requires offending students to go through counseling with Alternatives for Youth Program in Longmont while the parents attend the Cornerstone Drug Treatment program in Westminster.

White said the program, at Longmont High, Skyline High and Silver Creek Middle/Senior High, has served 55 students since it was implemented in February and 45 completed the program.

The program was started because White and some of her fellow principals felt that a five-day suspension was not enough to get kids to see the error of their ways. “We felt it was missing an educational component, an awareness that these are the choices you are making,” White said.

Parents have given positive feedback about the program, even inquiring if more time could be devoted to the educational component, White told the school board.

Out of the 45 students who completed the three one-hour sessions with counselors, the program had only three repeat offenders, White said.

Board member Merrill Bohaning asked White what the recidivism rate was before the program; White said she did not have those numbers.

“From my own knowledge at Longmont High School, we have had fewer repeat offenders,” she said.

White recommended the board consider expanding the Alternative to Suspension program at high schools in the outlying areas and area middle schools.

Cornerstone charges the district $35 per counseling session, while Alternatives for Youth charges the district nothing. Parents and students do not pay to participate.

If students do not choose to go through the program, they are suspended for five days.

White also updated the board on Longmont High’s late-start program. The school changed its start time this year from 7:25 a.m. to 8 a.m. because research has shown that students think better when they start school later, White said.

Parents, students and staff had “overwhelmingly wanted us to try it,” White said.

So far, the school has “heard nothing but positives (from parents). Students are getting up with less hassles, less fights. They are arriving at school on time. The only difficulty we have is the athletics piece,” she said.

Because the schoolday now ends later, at 3:10 p.m., some students have to leave school early to participate in athletic events.

White said she would like to see all district high schools on a similar schedule to minimize the effect of athletics on education.

Longmont High will conduct a survey in May to see how parents, students and staff liked the late start time and White will present it to the board at a future meeting.

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-684-5211, or by e-mail at pavengladych@times-call.com.

 

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