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PISD approves alternative high school

PISD_04-14-THSParis independent School District will begin next year with a new, alternative high school program.

“There is a need,” Superintendent Paul Jones said. “Some kids just don’t fit in a traditional high school environment. There may be more than we realize.”

The PISD school board unanimously approved the non-traditional Travis High School at Monday’s regular meeting.

The school will be located in the old Travis campus at 3270 Graham St., which is now home to Paris Alternative School for Success, the disciplinary alternative education program. An old agricultural building behind the main building will be renovated for DAEP with Travis High School taking over the old eighth-grade campus. PASS is moving because they did not want to put the alternative high school there and then have to move it to the main campus as it grew.

“Our goal is to operate with both schools with existing staff,” Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Robert High said. “We’re looking at creative scheduling, and we’re asking staff to get additional certifications.”

Travis High School will use a combination of teacher-taught and computer-based classes. PASS Director Joan Moore said electives are the most likely candidates for computer course. Core classes would be better served with a live teacher, especially when it comes to state testing.

Because the program is designed for students who have jobs, families and other obligations, classes will run 8 a.m. to noon, although students could spend extra time working on classwork or preparing for the STAAR test.

“That is definitely going to be teacher-taught, and we are definitely going to spend a lot of time on it,” Moore said.

When the DAEP program started 20 years ago, each student had a mentor to work with, she said. That is an idea she wants to see resurrected for Travis High School.

“The staff at DAEP is very excited about the possibilities we see,” she said. “With Travis High School, perhaps DAEP will start getting smaller and smaller. That’s our hope.”

They’re ready to go. Staff has begun drawing up plans, talking about renovations and technology needs to make it work.

As long as space is available, Travis High School will be available to students from throughout Lamar County, but classes will not be open to just anyone. Students must fill out a questionnaire and write an essay as part of the application. Moore will interview individual students and their parents, along with a more in-depth questionnaire.

Students will be required to sign a dress code contract and an attendance contract. More than three unexcused absences will end up in truancy court. Discipline problems also won’t be tolerated, Moore said. A student can go from Travis to DAEP once. A second trip would result in expulsion.

A student will not be eligible to go from the disciplinary side to the alternative high school. The student will have to return to his home campus and “prove himself” before applying to Travis.

“It’s for high school, but we don’t want to start with true freshmen,” Moore said. “We’re looking at kids who are more like ‘freshmores,’ but we’re going to start with juniors and seniors.”

Students may even have the option of returning to their home schools for graduation if they get caught up.

The concept has proven successful in other areas, Jones said. Moore and other PISD staff went to visit New Horizons in Greenville recently. Greenville’s program has been in place for eight years and has 120 students. The program in Texarkana ISD has more than 100 students. Board President George Fisher asked what might happen if the numbers at Travis High School ballooned.

“Honestly, Mr. Fisher, we’re going to put it in God’s hands and take it as it comes,” she said.

As THS grows, Moore said the district may need to look at providing day care for students who have children. Greenville’s New Horizons has such a program in place.

Officials looked at a variety of names before settling on THS, many involving the word “options” or “choice” – even Wildcat Academy.

“What it’s going to say is Travis High School, high school of choice,” Jones said. “Everybody is familiar with the Travis campus, the Travis name.”

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