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Daily News Editorial

By Staff | Feb 12, 2008

At first glance, Principal Frank Christenson’s proposal at Monday night’s board meeting that Estherville Lincoln Central Community School District take over the alternative program seems to have merits. However, we believe the ELC Board of Education should study the matter thoroughly before making a final decision.

There are currently 20-22 students enrolled at Laker High housed at Iowa Lakes Community College. There is a cap of 24 students in the program.

According to statistics Christenson provided, there are currently 24 ELC students who have failed three or more classes in the past semester. That means there a “quite a few” students in grades 10-12 who will not graduate with their classmates. There are 23 students in grades 10-12 who will not graduate with their classmates, even if they take eight classes a semester for the rest of their high-school careers. There are also 42 students in ninth through 11th grades who will have to take seven or more classes if they want to graduate on time. As a result, the number of students in alternative school could double.

With that cap of 24 students at Laker High, though, that is impossible.

Christenson’s proposal is that the district move the alternative school to McKinley, making room for the additional students. If a lead teacher and at least one aide were hired, the district could save $40,000 a year, according to Christenson’s estimates.

While this sounds good on paper, we believe there are a number of areas for concern regarding this proposal.

Making one teacher and an aide responsible for up to 48 students does not provide for a very successful scenario. Alterative-school students do not require less attention than regular students — they require more. So why should alternative students be relegated to a teacher-student ratio that is far greater than state and district standards for the traditional classroom. It is unfair to the students, the teacher, and the aide.

Students who fail three or more classes should not be automatically relegated to an alternative school. Passing them off to an alternative school, which Christenson admitted has less-stringent standards than the traditional classroom, is again unfair to the students. It would be better for them to flunk and have to repeat a grade. That alone should be incentive enough to keep up with their studies for a second year.

Moving additional students to an alternative-school setting would essentially be lowering the bar as far as the district-wide assessment initiative is concerned. While the implication is that certain students have failed, the truth is that the school would have failed to set and maintain educational standards.

There is one final point.

When the decision was made to raze the Lincoln School, Superintendent Dick Magnuson said the McKinley building would be a preferable site for an art center. We would hope that the school at least allow that option for McKinley as a consideration.

We consider this an important issue not just for alternative-school students but also for the integrity of the school district as a whole. We welcome your letter to the editor, regardless of your position.

The ELC Board of Education will consider the proposal to relocate the alternative school at its March 10 meeting. We hope to see you there.