A vote for The Crossing and at-risk students

A vote for The Crossing and at-risk students

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Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 6:11 am

We were surprised but pleased by last week’s decision by the South Bend school board to renew its partnership with The Crossing.
The 4-3 vote to renew came despite Superintendent Carole Schmidt’s recommendation that the district not contract with the alternative school.
Trustee Stan Wruble was bothered by what he sees as the school district outsourcing education. “If we aren’t serving at-risk or underserved students,” he said. “we need to do a better job.”
We support efforts by the South Bend Community School Corp. to improve how it serves at-risk students. But as we’ve noted before, it seems likely that no single alternative school or program will be able to meet the needs of all marginalized students.
The Crossing offers a second chance to young people who have been expelled from conventional school or have dropped out. The school partners with more than 30 Indiana school corporations. In its partnership with the
SBCSC, The Crossing receives $5,500 for each South Bend student enrolled at the private school, out of the $6,152 state tuition support the district receives per student. (Rob Staley, executive director at The Crossing, puts the figure at $6,157 and notes that the district also receives additional tuition support, including $2,600 for special ed students.)
Another concern raised by those opposed to the contract was the issue of separation of church and state. We trust that school corporation lawyers vetted this issue and have determined that this is a legal option for students who choose to attend the faith-based school.
And these are young people who don’t have a lot of options.
The Crossing pursues these kids, going door to door, making every effort to find them and re-enroll them.
Last year, The Crossing served 199 South Bend students. Of the 27 students who were eligible to graduate — with 12 or fewer credits — 14 graduated.
We believe The Crossing’s attendance rate for last year — 86 percent — and its retention rate — 82 percent — are worth noting.
Its focus on preparing students for work is also significant. Since January, The Crossing has offered a job training program, in addition to its internships. Fifty percent of the students in this program (in the Elkhart-St. Joseph County region) were offered full-time positions at the end of training, a Crossing official says.
Beyond the numbers, we have heard countless positive stories about The Crossing over the years by educators, administrators and others in the community. Stories about a commitment to the students it serves that go beyond school work, that establishes relationships and helps young people find hope and a new path.
Those things don’t show up in statistics and figures. But they shouldn’t be overlooked in the effort to reach young people who are cast adrift, for whom a traditional school setting simply doesn’t work. More of these students will have the opportunity to succeed thanks to the school board’s vote.