The impending closure of the alternative school housed at Area 30 will not mean the end of such a service for at-risk Greencastle students.
At Wednesday's monthly meeting, the Greencastle School Board accepted a proposal presented by middle school Principal Shawn Gobert to start an alternative school inside Greencastle High School.
An alternative school offers a different option for students with disciplinary problems, students at risk to drop out and those who, for some other reason, struggle with a traditional school setting. Currently housed at Area 30, the current option for alternative schooling is a five-school cooperative between the four county schools and Eminence.
Financial constraints in all districts have the program coming to an end at the conclusion of the school year.
Various educators, including Gobert, GHS Principal Randy Corn, GHS guidance counselor Shannon Fritz and alternative school teacher Doug Hudson, expressed concerns over the future of students enrolled in alternative school.
"I'm concerned with what's going to happen to these kids," Hudson said.
Corn warned the district's dropout rate is likely to increase if some option is not provided.
Besides continuing to provide the service for high school students, the new proposal would expand it to middle school students. While dropouts are not a problem for middle school, expulsions are.
Gobert said a record 10 students have gone through the expulsion process at GMS this year. He said nine of those students, and possibly all 10, would have been eligible for the alternative school.
The plan is to hire Hudson as the alternative school instructor. The classroom will be housed at the southeast end of the GHS auxiliary gym. This room has access to a separate entrance and restroom facilities, keeping the students segregated from the general GHS population.
Additionally, there will be two half-day sessions, one for middle school and one for high school. The students utilize Plato software, which is already in use for the GHS night school program.
The main concern the board and administration expressed was with the cost of the program. There will be an $8,800 one-time cost to start the program, and yearly expenses of $11,575, not including Hudson's salary. Previously, Greencastle has paid one-fifth of the instructor's salary.
"I'd be worried about the money side," Superintendent Bob Green said. "We're still in uncertain times. I'd need to look at it some more to see if we could cover the salary and fringe benefits."
The board chose to move quickly, though, approving the program unanimously.