April 9, 2009
STARKVILLE -- Quad County Alternative School in Starkville is facing a $385,000 budget shortfall, as Lowndes County School District has withdrawn from the program.
LCSD has been sending alternative students to Quad County for the past several years. But the district did not renew its contract for the 2009-10 school year and will instead bus students to Columbus Municipal School District''s alternative school.
"By going with the Columbus Municipal School District, it gives me more class time. (The drive to Starkville is) 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back," noted Mike Halford, superintendent of education for Lowndes County School District. "It also saves us enormous transportation fees, and the cost per child was lower."
LCSD has been paying "in excess of $400 a day" to transport students to Quad County, including the cost of mileage paid to the driver, fuel, a security officer and other expenses.
Additionally, LCSD paid more than $7,800 per student for 40 alternative students and 10 students in the GED program. At CMSD, LCSD will pay $6,500 per student for the same 50 slots. 40 alternative and 10 GED slots
"They did a great job educationally; our kids learned," Halford noted of Quad County. "It was strictly an economic move."
"We have to figure out how to make up the shortfall," Starkville School District Superintendent Judy Couey said.
LCSD''s 50 slots were among the 140 Quad County Alternative School sells annually to neighboring school districts, agreeing to take in and educate students who have been banned from regular school for a certain time because of behavioral problems. Remaining collaborative school districts are Starkville, Oktibbeha County and Noxubee County.
Joseph Stone, principal of the alternative school, is working to recruit other area schools to buy the available slots.
"I''ve tried to get some interest from other school districts who used to be in the consortium," Stone said. "I''ve had some interest, but no offer to buy slots."
Quad offers academic programs in addition to the alternative school classes. Stone said he hopes to expand these programs even further.
The GED program offers students who have failed grades an opportunity for remediation and to earn their GED.
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