Jackson School Board OKs A+ Partnership Plan

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Jackson School District is taking the final steps to obtain A+ designation, a state program that helps students pay for college.

The school board approved the district's A+ Partnership Plan at its meeting Tuesday. The plan, which includes how the district will continue to evaluate the program's success, will go to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Aug. 25 for approval.

The A + Schools Program pays for two years of tuition and fees at a community college or technical school for eligible students. To qualify, students must have a 95 percent attendance rate throughout high school, complete 50 hours of mentoring and have a 2.5 grade point average, which translates to a 6.86 on Jackson's 11-point scale.

There are 274 A+ schools statewide. The Cape Girardeau and Oak Ridge school districts started the program in 2001. Woodland School District in Marble Hill also received the designation earlier this year.

The Jackson School District has been working to obtain the designation for three years. The senior class will be the first to use it after graduation.

The program will help students who are overlooked, said board member Bruce Thomas.

"We're reaching a lot of kids who are in the middle that sometimes we don't get to," Thomas said.

The district started working on starting the program to give parents another option to help pay for college and help students who would benefit from a technical education, said assistant superintendent Dr. Rita Fisher.

"We've always felt like we have these students who are good students but they still need that push," she said.

She said the opportunities for mentoring throughout the district will increase as the program grows.

"We want them to be able to volunteer later in life and see the value in that," she said.

Becky Riney, the district's program coordinator, said 77 students are signed up for A+, including 23 seniors. She said about half of the seniors have completed their mentoring requirements.

"With the way the economy is, I think a lot of parents are going to be looking at it," she said.

Students who want to attend a four-year university should still consider the program, she said. Some universities offer scholarships for students who fulfill the requirements.

"It's a good backup for any kid," she said.

Separately, the board approved to hold a tax rate hearing before its next meeting Aug. 25. It also approved a foreign exchange student from Denmark for the upcoming school year, which starts Monday.

abusch@semissourian.com

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