Maricopa Unified School District is creating an alternative school to get high school students who are "credit-deficient" back on track for graduation.

The Maricopa Unified School District’s governing board discussed at a Wednesday meeting an implementation strategy for the district’s newly founded Alternative Secondary Program.

Per the district’s description, the purpose of the program is to encourage “remediation leading to graduation,” meaning through the program students who are “credit deficient” or otherwise do not conform to a “comprehensive school” model can not only graduate with a diploma, but also do so on time.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut has high hopes for the program not just as a service to students who don’t wish to participate in regular high school program, but to students who may just need a semester or two to get back on track.

“We think that some of them could and should get caught up and then maybe go back into the regular program,” Chestnut said. “But we think that some of them may want to spend their last two years of school in this program.”

The current program design is based on nine-week semesters, Monday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., with two-hour blocks and new students being able to cycle into the program every nine weeks.

The district hopes the program will be able to accommodate as many as 120 credit-deficient students in grades 11 and 12, and hopes in the future they will be able to accommodate ninth and 10th grade. However, due to budgetary restrictions, the underclasses will be excluded from the alternative program’s current design, a fact which has board member Torri Anderson concerned.

“If we can catch them as freshman and sophomores, they don’t have to be in it for junior and senior year,” Anderson said. “So, my idea is let’s do something that is preventative.”

Chestnut agreed with Anderson, and acknowledged the district is still dealing with limited resources and he wants the current program to succeed before it is expanded upon.

He said the program is not necessarily limited to 11th and 12th grades. The 120 slots will be filled on a case by case basis with “the kids who are in the greatest need,” including ninth and 10th grades. However, the target groups remain juniors and seniors who are approaching graduation.

There was also talk of implanting a case manager to assist special-needs students who may benefit from the program.

Currently the plan is to utilize four classrooms at Maricopa High School located in the automotive building. The board also plans to purchase two portable buildings, which will accommodate two other alternative school classes.

Final approval of the program plan has not been made. Most board members agree on key items and, because of the timeliness of the matter, plan to have the wrinkles ironed out sometime in February.

The program is set to begin with the 2017-18 school year.


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