R-5 to apply for dropout prevention grant

R-5 High School is applying for up to $2.9 million in grant funding to help students stay in school and prepare for life after earning a high school diploma.

The Colorado Department of Education invited R-5 and other alternative and traditional Colorado high schools with high dropout rates to apply for Tiered Improvement Grants this year. R-5’s dropout rate was 27.9 percent in 2011.

Wednesday is the application deadline for the grants. Recipients will be notified in late June or early July and can begin spending the grant funding immediately, according to School District 51 grant writer Jen Hensel Hildebrandt.

Tiered Improvement Grants funnel federal money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 through state education departments to help struggling schools. Clifton Elementary School received one of the three-year grants in 2010-11 and will use it through 2012-13 for teacher coaching and other resources.

Hildebrant said $6 million was the last figure she heard for how much money the state would disperse to an unnamed number of schools in yet-to-be-decided amounts in this round of Tiered Improvement Grants.

If selected for the grant, Principal Anna Goetz said R-5 would spend the funds on professional development and to hire three people for the three years the grant would be active. One new employee would fill a social worker-type role and offer counseling and connections to community resources that can help students struggling to remain in school due to non-academic issues. Goetz said staff would learn more about helping students battle these issues and what agencies to connect them to so they can help students after the grant funding ends.

Goetz would like to improve graduation rates at R-5 by hiring two more teachers as well. One would lead a vocational course called Postsecondary Workforce Readiness, or PoWeR, and guide students through job-training exercises such as mock interviews and conflict resolution. The other teacher would help students transition into R-5 through a “discovery course” and prepare for the school’s academic rigor, which has increased in recent years and can seem daunting for some students who come to the school after dropping out of another institution.

“(R-5) is very successful for 75 percent of our kids, but for students who aren’t staying with it, we can provide increased interventions through PoWeR and discovery and have someone right there at the moment to serve the needs of kids who have social/emotional needs or issues with poverty or trauma at home,” Goetz said.

The school will offer one or two sections of the discovery class even without grant funding. A limited number of school personnel are being trained this week to offer the course with help from a five-year Colorado Graduation Pathways grant R-5 received two years ago.


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