Overshadowed by cuts in Director of Schools Jesse Register’s proposed $633 million budget are investments in two new programs, one designed to help incarcerated youth and another that gives students access to online courses.
Both are aimed at improving the graduation rate at Metro Nashville Public Schools, which has risen in recent years, but still stands at just 73.1 percent.
The program for incarcerated youth, according to school administrators, seeks to transition students returning from jail to the classroom by enrolling them first in a special school for nine weeks to an entire semester before they re-enter the regular classroom.
Still lacking a specific location, the transitional school would serve 12 to 20 students at a time. The budget, which still awaits approval, carves out $293,300 for the initiative.
“Unfortunately, we have a lot of students in this county who come back to us from other places –– for example, jail,” Register said. “It’s almost impossible for them to get thrown right back into the public school system, in one of our comprehensive high school, and be successful.”
Underscoring that point, Register said data suggests many students who return from jail end up dropping out of school altogether.
“We need to work with those young people to find out what their challenges are academically, what their challenges are socially, what their challenges are emotionally and psychologically, and then to address those,” Register said. “The transition program is an attempt to re-acclimate them to public schools.”
A new virtual high school, meanwhile, comes from an allocation of $263,100 within the budget, and would allow students to take certain courses on the Internet.
Online classes would be available to students who lack credit in a certain subject, as well as students who don’t have access to particular courses at their schools. Register said virtual schools have become popular options in recent years
“A good example is we have may have students in high schools who want to take an Advanced Placement course, but there aren’t enough students in the school to offer a class,” Register said. “The virtual program is a way to give them that option.”
In another effort to boost the district’s graduation rate, Register’s budget would expand the academies at Old Cockrill and Opry Mills. The schools were launched this year to give students 17 to 21 years old, who previously dropped out of school, the chance to earn a diploma.