Janesville44.6°

Expelled Milton students could take classes on web

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
February 14, 2011
— Students who are expelled from Milton High School could be allowed to take courses online through the school district and even graduate from home if the school board approves a district proposal.

The board could vote tonight on a plan that would allow high school students expelled from school the option to access the Milton Computer Based Alternative Program, which is the district's online course program.


District officials say the plan would help prevent students expelled for all or part of a school year from falling behind in schoolwork and becoming deficient in graduation credits.


"In my eyes, expulsion is to keep the student out of school but not to prevent learning," said Phil Pape, associate principal at the high school. "We still want to provide them an education. We don't want to set them back even further."


About 45 students already have used the district's online courses to recover lost credits and to augment in-class learning, according to district records.


If the district adds access to the program for expelled students, it would come at no additional cost to the district, officials said.


Under the plan, expelled students would get access to the same online curriculum as other students through M-CAP. The students would work mostly from home, at their own pace, and would be capped at three credits per semester, which is equivalent to the amount they could earn at school.


Students who are permanently expelled could have the option to take enough online courses through M-CAP to earn an "alternative" high school diploma through the district, Pape said.


According to district figures, the high school has an average of five or six students a year who are under temporary expulsion orders with the option for early return to the district.


Allowing those students to take online classes could allow the district to recover part or all of the state aid lost through their expulsions, officials said.


Three students in the district are permanently expelled. It remains to be seen whether the district would allow those students to take classes online.


School officials say that enrollment would be subject to school board approval. Not all expelled students would be guaranteed access.


"If there was someone who had hurt someone or had committed a crime that makes it impossible for us to accept them back in the school, the district wouldn't have to offer them this as an opportunity," Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said.


Pape said students under temporary expulsion orders taking online courses would have limited access to a district computer lab to work with staff after school hours, when their contact with other students would be minimal.


Milton wouldn't be the only school district in the area allowing expelled students to study online.


The Janesville School District allows certain expelled students to take online courses through its own array of programs and charter schools, said Yolanda Cargile, the district's director of at-risk and multicultural programs.


Milton School Board member Jon Cruzan said some might argue that offering online classes to expelled students sends a mixed message.


"There will be those who are set against providing these opportunities because the kid quote-unquote screwed up," he said.


But Cruzan said online classes could be the one thing that stops some expelled students from giving up on their educations.


"Our thought is that kids that are making bad choices could still be in our communities for a long time. We think their having a high school education will help," he said.



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