Modesto charter school to offer 2nd chance at diploma

naustin@modbee.comJune 16, 2013 

— A second-chance charter school will open this fall to serve young adults who dropped out and regretted it. The Come Back Kids charter got the go-ahead last week to open on the former Mildred Perkins Elementary School campus in north Modesto.

The jobs-focused, flexible-format school will be run by the Stanislaus County Office of Education, which provides alternative education for expelled students and juvenile inmates. Division Director Scott Kuykendall said teachers already working for the county office would fill the two part-time positions to start.

Students ages 16 to 23 will work on individual plans with a mix of online course work, in-person help and job-skills training.

The plan is to start with 25 slots, doubling the number of students served each year and expanding the program to county office sites throughout the county, Kuykendall said.

The Stanislaus County Board of Education approved the charter petition unanimously Tuesday. The program still has some bureaucratic steps to climb, Kuykendall said, but should open this fall at the Perkins campus, in space the county leases from the Salida Unified School District.

Graduation rates now available from 2011-12 show fewer teens dropping out, but Stanislaus County still loses about 1,200 students each year, Kuykendall said.

That's roughly one in seven students, the state average, a far better showing than in 2010, when one in five Stanislaus County students dropped out. Those who failed to graduate in 2010 are 21 years old now, and taxpayers are likely helping them with living expenses, through social programs or, in some cases, jail costs.

Studies show about 75 percent of state prisoners have no high school diploma, said Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon. "This program is vital. If we don't catch them (with help to graduate), then chances are they'll be wearing the orange jumpsuits," he said.

The state does not generally pay for adults to go to high school, so to fund the program, the county office paired a scholastic program with job-skills training, Kuykendall said. He said the charter will differ from available programs in key ways:

• Students can be 16 to 23 years old, giving dropouts a window of time to return and extra time for working parents to fit in classes.

• Day and evening hours and an independent-study format can flex around work hours and day care.

• The program will include help to stabilize students' lives, such as referrals to services, as well as job experience through internships and apprentice programs, with job placement help after graduation.

• Students can earn a standard diploma, a certificate of completion or a GED, depending on each one's credit standing and effort.

The made-to-order program, however, faces an uphill climb to find the often off-the-grid folks who need it, Kuykendall said. Plans include setting up Facebook and other social media sites, a smart-phone app and texting capability. Church outreach, social workers and community meetings are other avenues, he said.

"There's plenty of young adults out there. There's a big need," Kuykendall said.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter @NanAustin, www.modbee.com/education.

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