City kicking in to help older students get GEDs

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 19, 2004

[11/19/04] Public school and Vicksburg officials believe they’ve found a way to help overage students in the Vicksburg Warren School District’s junior high schools.

“This way we don’t have to leave any child behind,” Mayor Laurence Leyens said of the deal that will allow the City of Vicksburg to hire, on a part-time basis, up to eight students who will also be enrolled in an equivalency degree program in the Vicksburg Warren School District.

Students will be hired in the landscaping, maintenance, automobile repair and public works departments. They will be paid minimum wage, $5.15 an hour, and will alternate days working or attending school.

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The students will work report directly to department heads, giving them a chance for mentoring, Leyens said.

“We’re breaking new ground here,” said Superintendent James Price, who proposed the idea. “We don’t know what the outcome of this program will be with every student, but we do know that we’re moving in the right direction.”

For students who reach the 10th grade, vocational-technical programs are an option. However, for students who are 15 or 16 and in the seventh or eighth grades, there has been no nonacademic route to a degree.

Price said he hopes the program will give the students a chance to earn money, learn trade skills, establish a work ethic and finish school.

“It’s not a giveaway program,” Price said. “These are real jobs with real training.”

Leyens said students who are successful in the program will have an opportunity to be hired to a full-time position.

“We can help them rather than leaving them out on the streets,” Leyens said.

Funding for the deal will come from funds already available in the payroll budget, Leyens said.

“This is really not a lot of money to spend,” he said. “The long-term benefits of society will be well worth this.”

Overage students were removed from mainstream courses at the beginning of this school year, after Price and his administration created the Grove Street School, a nontraditional setting for educational programs where students can prepare for the GED exam.

“These students will have the opportunity to show that they can be productive members of our community,” Price said. “It takes them out of an environment where they have not been successful in the past and puts them into a new classroom in the real world.”

Price said student progress will be followed closely, and if the program works, it may be expanded to more than eight students.

The district has 9,000 students in grades K-12, and state and federal laws require an appropriate education be available to all who are 5 through 21 years old.