TARGETING POTENTIAL DROPOUTS Bill sets up job training during school

Published 11:42 am Thursday, May 3, 2012

A bill to allow high school dropouts and potential dropouts to enroll in community college so they may receive job training while earning a high school diploma has gone to Gov. Phil Bryant.

The Mississippi Senate gave its final approval Wednesday to SB 2792, and Bryant has said he intends to sign it into law.

The state has a law allowing such dual enrollment, often used by advanced high school students ready to take college courses, but Bryant has been pushing the new bill as an alternative for students in danger of not completing their education.

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“It’s great if it attracts kids who have dropped out of school, but I think it was primarily designed for the students who are considering dropping out,” said Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, who supported the bill. The program will allow them to pursue skills and training that get them excited about school, he said, and help them get good jobs as well as their diplomas.

Students would not be charged community college tuition. Local K-12 school districts would receive state aid for students being taught at the colleges and reimburse the colleges.

A pilot program will begin this fall between Hinds Community College and Rankin County schools, said HCC spokesman Colleen Hartfield, who worked with Bryant and the legislative leadership to develop the bill.

Statewide, the program will be implemented in the 2013-14 school year.

Tuesday, Bryant signed into law House Bill 707, which pushes the start date of public schools to “on or after the third Monday in August.” The requirement will take effect in the 2014-15 school year to allow districts time to revise academic and athletic schedules.

Vicksburg Warren School District schools are set to begin the 2012-13 school year Aug. 6. The district has started the school year around that date for a number of years, allowing the first semester to be completed before Christmas holidays. The last day of school this year is May 24; for the 2012-13 year it is scheduled for May 23.

Students in Mississippi are required to attend school 180 days each year. Pushing back the start date will require changing the end date as well as potentially affecting days off to observe such holidays as Columbus Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.

Dr. Elizabeth Swinford, VWSD superintendent, could not be reached.

HB 707 was authored by Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, who filed similar measures dating to 1994. It was supported by the Gulf Coast Business Council, which claimed it would let families spend more money taking vacations.

Local representatives George Flaggs, a Democrat, and Alex Monsour, a Republican, voted in favor. In the Senate, Hopson opposed it, saying he believes it’s a decision that’s appropriate for individual school boards to make.

Daytime temperatures in June average about 89 degrees and 92 in August, according to

The Associated Press contributed to this report.