PISD eyes new alternative high school

PISD_3-24Paris Independent School District is looking at creating an alternative high school to give options for students who might not otherwise be able to graduate.

“When I first came, I noted a need for students who couldn’t finish high school because of circumstances beyond their control,” Superintendent Paul Jones said. “It breaks my heart that the only opportunity they would have for a high school diploma was a GED.”

Jones made a presentation about the idea to the PISD school board Monday. He plans to bring a proposal for trustees to vote on next month.

“It’s going to be a great program,” he said. “We are actively recruiting students.”

It’s not an uncommon approach. Texarkana ISD has Options High School and Greenville has a program known as New Horizons.

It should help prevent dropouts, said Mark Hudson, deputy superintendent of curriculum and student services. Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Robert High stressed that the proposed school would not be for discipline. It would be an accelerated learning program designed to let students catch up on credits and graduate in a reasonable amount of time.

“It’s focusing on academics and catching those kids who fall in the cracks,” he said

The alternative high school would be housed at the old Travis campus, which is also the location for Paris Alternative School for Success, PISD’s disciplinary alternative school. PASS would be moved to a couple of classrooms separate from the new alternative high school. The same staff would be used for both, Jones said.

“We have a campus in place, staff in place,” he said. “I don’t think it will have much of a financial impact.”

It would be a half-day program, with freshmen and sophomores part of the day and juniors and seniors the other half. It would use classroom and online courses and partner with Paris Junior College to offer dual credit and vocational classes such as electrician, air conditioning and welding – paid for by PISD.

“This is an actual application process. It’s not like they can just say, ‘I’m going to do this,’” Board Vice-President Dr. Bert Strom said. “They meet with an administrator and set up an individual plan.”

There is a small downside in that such non-traditional students are not eligible to participate in sports or other UIL programs, Jones said. But they generally do not anyway.

Texarkana’s alternative high school serves about 100 students. Jones estimated a Paris school would probably have 30 to 60 students, but could easily handle 100.

“The alternative high school would be open to all Lamar County high school students. We are an open transfer district,” Jones said. “We would work with other school districts if a student wanted to come here and graduate from that high school.”

He was not sure what the alternative high school would be called.

“I like ‘Options’ because it is another option for kids. We may open it up to the students,” he said. “”We want to roll this out as an ideal for Paris students. It’s how we roll it out that will make all the difference.”

In other business:

  • PISD_PetrikasTrustees approved an expedited waiver for missed instructional days. Winter weather has cost three school days this year. State law requires a district to include and use two days in its calendar, but anything beyond that can qualify for a waiver, said Hudson. He said the state will approve it once the school board passes it.
  • The board recognized Crockett Intermediate School sixth grader Madeline Petrikas, who made it to the fourth-place round of The Dallas Morning News Regional Spelling Bee, where she represented Lamar County.
  • The board approved two student travel requests. One was for the Paris High School debate team to attend the National Catholic Forensic League national debate tournament in late May. The other was for the yearbook editors to attend a national high school journalism convention in San Diego in April.
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Jeff Parish Jeff Parish is a high school English teacher and journalist. He has worked for the Greenville Herald-Banner, Dallas Morning News, The Paris News and Galveston County Daily News, among others. For comments, feedback or suggestions, you can email him at jeff@eparistexas.com.