Most of the young people who get in trouble in Hartford share one characteristic: They have dropped out of school. And with no education or job skills, many migrate to the illegal drug trade. If they are lucky enough to see a classroom again, it is usually in Unified School District No.1, run by the state Department of Correction.
For their well-being as well as the city's, it's imperative that more be done to reach these youngsters and get them back onto some education or career track. A school now on the drawing board should help.
Its working title is "the partnership school," because it is a partnership between the school board and the youth service agency Our Piece of the Pie. It is being designed for youngsters who are "overage and under-credited," high-risk youths ages 16 to 18 who are truant and about to drop out of school, said Christina Kishimoto, assistant superintendent for school design.
The school, which officials hope to open in 2009, will offer classroom instruction and experience in a workplace, as well as counseling and other services to help the teenagers finish the program and get on with useful lives. Ms. Kishimoto said school planners are considering opening it to youngsters who have dropped out but need only a few credits to graduate. She said the school will start with 50 students and probably add 50 students each year, to a maximum of 200.
If they are successful, many of the innovative schools and academies that opened this week will help reduce the number of students who need such a school. But for the moment, with just 36 percent of Hartford kids who enter ninth grade graduating from high school, many do.
Ms. Kishimoto said the administration is beginning to think about ways to assist students who dropped out and aren't close to graduation. That's a critical area. She said it should be the subject of a task force. Let's create one, with help from the state and agencies such as Our Piece of the Pie. If young people can read and write and earn a high school degree, they have so many more options besides guns and drugs.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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