IRON RIVER—A new class to help young adults complete earn their high school diplomas was approved by the West Iron County School Board during its regular meeting Jan. 20.
The new program will be starting right away—the first classes are scheduled for next week.
The adult ed program is being run by the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Community Schools, which wanted to make it available in Iron County. Classes will be held in the middle school computer lab on the West Iron campus.
Mike Berutti, middle school-high school principal, told the board he visited the IM-K adult education program in November. That program operates on the bottom floor of the Central School building in Iron Mountain.
“I felt we needed something in Iron County,” Berutti said. “We’re losing kids all over this county that don’t want to go to school.
“They’re close to graduation, and then they pull the plug for whatever reason.” Whatever the reason they made that decision, “They’ll be able to come in at night starting Feb. 3 to do credit recovery so they can get their diploma,” Berutti explained later.
“If some are further away from a high school diploma, they can do some practice GED work.” Each month, Julie Wonders of the IM-K Community Schools will come up to administer GED testing, which is no longer administered in the U.P. west of Iron Mountain.
“It [GED] went all online as of Jan. 1, so people will now be able to work to get their high school diplomas or work to get their GED right here at the high school at night.”
Berutti said the West Iron schools are planning an information meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, for anybody interested. More information about the class and meeting will appear in next week’s Reporter.
At the board meeting, Berutti said the Iron Mountain-Kingsford program takes in all of Dickinson County along with students from Forest Park and at least two from West Iron—a total of 88 students. “I was floored by that number,” he said.
The program at West Iron will take place from 4 to 9 Mondays through Thursdays in the middle school computer lab.
The program needs to be housed in a school building, Berutti said, and the people supervising the students must be certified teachers. They will be Wonders’ employees, and the program will not cost West Iron any money.
He gave several examples of people who the program can help. If a student needs to complete a first semester English 11 credit, they could work from 4 to 9 p.m. or from 6 to 8 p.m. The program requires 60 hours of work to get half a credit.
“So a kid could stay in school if he’s real close to graduation, to pick up their credits.”
Another example: A student has a girlfriend and decides to leave school and get a job, even though he doesn’t have enough credits to graduate.
“We have to realize,” the principal said, “these are the kids who are not leaving our community. I believe we have to do something.”
While many area students are college-bound and do nicely in school, “Not everybody fits into this mold, and we have to give these kids some opportunity.” He said he expects 8 to 10 people to take the local program.
The program will focus on 17 to 19-year-olds. If a student wants to recover a credit, Berutti said, he would have to pay $100. A student taking a full day of classes plus a “zero hour” class would pay $275 for the virtual high school, so it would save them money.
Students 18 or older would withdraw from West Iron and transfer to Iron Mountain. When they meet graduation requirements, they can get either an Iron Mountain or a West Iron diploma.
“There’s a lot of different issues that we face and see every day.” Berutti said. Many boys think they can enter the Army, “But you can’t go into the Army without a GED or high school diploma anymore.”
Superintendent Chris Thomson said this program is similar in some ways to the ACE program that West Iron used to run, but it will be less expensive to operate.
He gave an example of a current student who could benefit from the classes—one who doesn’t pass his algebra 2 class as a junior and wants to take building trades as a senior.
That student, he said, can either take summer classes or the algebra 2 class through the credit recovery program. “That opens up your schedule for your senior year.”
If 18-year-olds leave school and finds full-time jobs, they can work during the day and take classes at West Iron at night to get the final credits needed for a diploma.
Thomson reminded the board of the emphasis Michigan places on graduation rates, dropout rates and testing scores. If students turn 18 during the school year and want to drop out, it affects their school’s graduation rate. If several students do that, “All of a sudden, the state’s putting up big scoreboards saying West Iron’s only graduating 89 percent.”
Berutti said this problem has been lingering for years, even back when he was in school, and is getting worse.
“Every weekend when I go into town, I see kids who are high school age, and I’ve never seen that kid in this town before. And in the summer, it’s crazy.
“It’s something we should look at. It’s a benefit for our kids and for our district, and the best thing is it doesn’t cost us anything.”
The board agreed unanimously to allow the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Community Schools to run the program.