The Newcomers School currently begins the instructional day at 9:30 am and ends at 4:30 pm.
Many high school students attending Newcomers must work after school to help support their families. The 4:30 pm dismissal time places many of them in a position where they must choose between attending school and working to help support their families. While school staff has worked to provide options to these students in order to allow them to work in the evening, two students still dropped out this year because they faced this dilemma. An earlier dismissal time would allow more afternoon and evening hours for the students to hold part-time jobs.
Several apartment complexes where Newcomers students reside offer after-school tutoring programs. However, because they are not dismissed until 4:30 pm, they do not arrive home earlier enough to participate in the tutorial programs. An earlier dismissal time would get students home early enough to participate in these programs.
A recent survey of staff indicated that 75% believe an earlier start time would be in the best interest of all students, especially younger students who become very tired and disengaged in the late afternoon. A more traditional schedule would also enable the school to use the transportation hub system which will result in lower transportation costs for Newcomers School.
Therefore, beginning in the fall of 2009, the school recommends the instructional day begin at 8:00 am and end at 3:00 pm.
The current year-round calendar was initially proposed because it provides breaks in the school year for academic camps; however, the administration and staff believe a traditional calendar would best meet the needs of the students.
Over the past two years, enrollment has increased in late August and throughout September. The year-round calendar has the students starting the school year before that natural spike in enrollment, so many students miss as much as one month of instruction. This year, between July 23, 2008 (first day for year-round) and August 26, 2008 (first day for traditional) enrollment at Newcomers doubled. By September 15, 2009, enrollment nearly tripled.
Students only attend Newcomers for one year. Therefore, 27 students transitioned to their attendance zone school in January. This became challenging because the year-round semester ended December 18, whereas the semester ended January 27 for schools on a traditional calendar. Because of this gap (December 18 to January 27), students were kept at Newcomers School for an additional three weeks so they could start at their new school at a natural break. Not only did this create scheduling challenges, it was confusing for students and parents since second semester had already begun at Newcomers.
The school serves grades 3-12, and therefore, some families that have students in grades preK-2 at traditional schools are dealing with two school calendars. This can be confusing for families and results in absences on days when the year-round students are in session, but traditional schools are not.
A shortened summer is effective on a year-round calendar if the students are returning to the same school in July. In view of the fact that most students at Newcomers School transition to their attendance-zone school at the end of June, they do not benefit from the shortened summer. They still have the summer break before beginning at their new school in August. Newcomers would offer a two-week summer academic camp to students in grades 3-8, whereas they currently attend two one-week academic camps—one in the fall and one in the spring.
A traditional academic calendar will better serve the students and families, which the Newcomers School serves. In addition, a traditional academic calendar will allow the Newcomers School to utilize the hub transportation system which will result in lower transportation costs.
High School Course Credit Options
Many high school students attending Newcomers have difficulty meeting graduation requirements. These students often arrive without transcripts from their home country and must enroll as 9th graders. With current graduation requirements, it is not possible for many of these students to complete the required number of credits before turning 21 years old. As a result, they age out of school (over 21) and are then classified as dropouts.
To better serve these students, the following is proposed:
Students Who Have TWO Years or Less before Turning 21: For students who have two years or less before turning 21, graduation is not possible. For these students, it is recommended that they be given the option to remain at Newcomers until they turn 21. A transition plan to enroll in a program at GTCC (ESL, GED, or Adult High School) that best meets their needs will be provided. For students who opt not to attend GTCC, Newcomers will help facilitate work opportunities or a trade apprenticeship in the community. The Office of Civil Rights has indicated that small numbers of students may remain enrolled beyond one calendar year if we can justify that it is in the best interest of the students. Newcomers will also create a workforce development class for this group of students. This class will cover topics such as GED programs and work related skills to prepare students for life after school. This plan will clearly be communicated with students (and their families) at the time of enrollment so the family can make an informed decision.
This is in the best academic interest of students. Rather than allowing students to simply age out, this is a proactive solution providing a pathway to continued learning for students. This also is in compliance with §G.S. 115C-47(32):
To Refer All Students Who Drop Out of the Public Schools to Appropriate Services. – Local boards of education shall refer all students who drop out of the public schools to appropriate services. When appropriate public school services such as extended day programs are available, the local boards shall refer the students to those services. When appropriate public school programs are not available or are not suitable for certain students, the local board shall refer the students to the community college system or to other appropriate services.
Even though students turning 21 while enrolled at Newcomers would remain counted towards the school’s dropout numbers, Newcomers will have documentation and a plan for each student explaining the school’s dropout numbers.
Summer School for Additional Credits: To allow additional opportunities to meet graduation requirements, Newcomers will offer two core graduation courses during a 28-day summer school session (current School Improvement Plan includes a seat time waiver), attending 7 hours per day. Each course will offer students 100 seat hours (135 is the requirement for block).
In order to provide additional opportunities to meet graduation requirements, Newcomers School must follow a traditional academic calendar.
Click here to view a cost analysis to implement the proposed changes.
RECOMMENDATION: The administration recommends Board of Education approval for the following changes to be implemented for Newcomers School at the start of the 2009-10 academic year:
- operate on a traditional 180-day academic calendar with an instructional day of 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, and
- allow over-age 9th graders the option to remain enrolled at the Newcomers School for more than one year.