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Board approves new study hall for struggling students

This fall, freshmen and sophomores at Havre High School who struggle in school will attend a mandatory study hall at the end of the school day.

The Havre school board approved the new program Tuesday night after a presentation by Havre High principal Jim Donovan and assistant principal Jerry Vandersloot.

"It's not looked at as a punishment; it's not meant to be bad," Donovan told the board.

"We don't want to fight parents either," he said, adding that parents can sign a form to keep their children out of the sessions.

The program would require students who are failing three classes or more to attend a study hall two afternoons a week under the supervision of two specially hired tutors. Students will attend the 3:45-to-5 p.m. sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Students identified as struggling - those with three or more F's on their mid-term or quarterly grade reports - will attend the sessions in the HHS library for a minimum of half a quarter - about five weeks. If performance has improved after five weeks, they will be released from the program.

Letters will be sent home notifying parents and inviting them to attend an orientation session. The student will be asked to sign a contract, along with a parent, staff member and administrator, pledging the student to participation in the study hall. On that contract there will be a space where the parents can sign to refuse to allow their children to participate.

Vandersloot said that after the second semester of last year there were 43 out of 650 students in the high school failing three or more classes.

He said his goal is to keep the program small - fewer than 30 students. Last year, about 19 eighth- and ninth- graders failed three or more classes, he said.

Other programs already target struggling juniors and seniors, he added.

The program will be operated by the school district and funded by the 12th District Court's juvenile probation department and the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line. Those organizations will provide the approximately $5,000 needed to run the program next year, Vandersloot said.

He said that over the last two years he has researched the ways different schools try to help struggling students, and that this program is similar to successful programs at Polson High School and Ronan Middle School.

"It's an innovative program that was well researched and it's certainly worth trying," said HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller Wednesday morning. "I believe it will help our students improve academically."

During the meeting Miller told the board that the program will also help the school meet the test score requirements of No Child Left Behind, President Bush's education program.

Vandersloot said after the meeting that his only concern is that the program might exclude students who are not struggling as much as the students failing three or more classes but who still want extra help.

Vandersloot will have a list of tutors to give to parents of struggling students.

Donovan said he intends the program to be flexible so that any necessary changes can be made during the school year.

The program will begin the first Thursday of the school year.


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