Alternative education plan put on hold

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By JASON ECK

Sonora Union High School District and Columbia College have decided the middle-college program planned to start this fall won't.

However, school officials and program backers say, it's only a delay the district is still excited about the program.

Sonora Union High School District Superintendent Rob Gaskill told trustees Tuesday that he and Columbia College President Jim Riggs agree that putting the program on hold for at least a year is the best move given the $35 billion state budget deficit and the deep cuts school districts anticipate.

Many school districts, including Sonora Union High School District, have placed temporary freezes on nonessential travel and purchases by district employees.

The middle-college program, developed over the past year, would allow high school juniors and seniors who are not thriving in the traditional high school setting to take college classes concurrently with high school courses and have a change in environment.

A committee made up of high school and college officials has created the program that is ready to go with the exception of selecting the 50 students and hiring teachers for the program.

By enrolling in three high school courses and filling out their days with college classes, students still work toward their high school diplomas and get college credit, as well.

Gaskill said the program will cost the district money for teachers and textbooks. It also means less state reimbursement for average daily attendance. Because students would spend their days on the college campus, even though they are still in high school, the district would receive three-quarters of its regular state money for each student.

According to a cost analysis prepared by Gaskill, the district could look at costs between $40,000 and $110,000 for the program, depending on whether the district paid for a new teacher and bought new textbooks.

Celeste Boyd, an education consultant hired by the high school district and college, told trustees Tuesday that she's disappointed the program has to be put on hold.

"We still have a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for this project, but we're going to put it in hibernation," Boyd said.

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The Union Democrat
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