Modesto City Schools students who have fallen behind will have another alternative to dropping out when a minicampus serving struggling students opens next year at Beyer High School.
The Board of Education on Monday night unanimously approved a five-year contract with Virginia-based AdvancePath Academics, a company that runs a hybrid program of online course work and traditional teaching. The program runs on a four-hour school day, enrolling a total of 120 students in morning and afternoon sessions. With one district teacher for every 20 students, officials think the more specialized attention will help boost the graduation rate.
They plan to add an evening session later in the year.
"The bottom line is, we want them to graduate," said Daisy Lee, associate superintendent of administrative and pupil services.
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But because the district will not provide transportation to the AdvancePath program, Trustee Cindy Marks said Beyer's north Modesto location makes it harder for students living in Modesto's poorer west side.
"For (west side) students to walk there would be really great," Marks said.
The proposal to bring AdvancePath to Modesto was the brainchild of the district's small/alternative schools task force, established by Superintendent Arturo Flores in September to retool the district's high schools and offer students more options than the Elliott Alternative Education Center.
A recent statewide study showed 25 percent of Elliott students dropped out during the 2005-2006 school year, well above the state's average for alternative campuses.
The district will spend $25,000 to convert three Beyer High rooms into an Internet cafe-type space and an additional $350,000 to maintain the rooms in the first year.
The district also will turn over the $37 per student per day in state funding to the company.
AdvancePath pays up to $250,000 for the furniture and computers and will reimburse the cost of using four district teachers for the program.
"What are we in business for? We're here to serve our students," said Dennis Snelling, director of business services. "We can't afford to let these kids go any longer."
Car allowance switch pulled
At the meeting, the board also pulled a proposal to add the $500 monthly car allowances of four district employees to their base salaries. About 100 members of the California School Employees Association showed up to argue against the contract changes for Deputy Superintendent Debbe Bailey and Associate Superintendents Craig Rydquist, Chris Flesuras and Lee.
"This will increase their monthly wages as well as increase their retirement benefits while classified employees are being laid off," California School Employees Association Modesto chapter president Aaron Castro wrote in an e-mail to members.
Flesuras, the associate superintendent of human resources, said the proposal was "pretty common practice."
"We're not making any more money than we made yesterday," Flesuras said.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2337.