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Expelled students can access online courses

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
February 15, 2011
— Students expelled from Milton High School now can take courses online through the district and graduate from home with an alternative high school diploma, the Milton School Board decided Monday.

The board approved a policy change giving expelled students access to the same online curriculum other students use through the Milton Computer-Based Alternative Program.


District administrators say offering online courses to students expelled for all or part of a school year helps prevent them from falling behind in schoolwork and becoming deficient in graduation credits.


Under the policy change, expelled students would be allowed to work on Web-based courses mostly from home, with limited access to a school district computer lab after school hours.


They would also be capped at three credits per semester, which is equivalent to the amount they could earn in school.


The policy would affect about five or six students a year who are expelled but are eligible for early re-entry in the summer or fall, officials said.


Online classes also would be available to certain students who are permanently expelled from the district, giving them the option to earn enough credits to graduate with an alternative degree.


Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said a diploma earned through Milton's online curriculum would not carry the weight of a regular high school diploma and having the alternative degree could affect a student's ability to enroll at certain colleges.


"In some ways it would be a lesser diploma, but it would serve the purpose of a student saying they had a high school diploma," Nikolay said.


Nikolay asked the board Monday to suspend a second reading on the policy change so it could be voted on and put into effect immediately.


"We have students that would benefit from it sooner rather than later," he said.


Although the board approved the change unanimously, board member Al Roehl added a disclaimer:


"I think you've got a lot of questions as it goes," he told school administrators.


Roehl said he initially opposed letting expelled students take classes online because he disagreed with a policy that punished students through expulsion yet rewarded them with an opportunity to earn graduation credits from home.


Roehl said he still wonders how the district will decide which expelled students it will allow to take online courses.


Milton Principal Jeremy Bilhorn said the courses would be generally available to all students still eligible for enrollment. However, he said administrative approval would be necessary for any expelled student to enroll in them.


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


Expanding the availability of online courses to expelled students would come at no additional cost to the district, officials said. Allowing those students to take online classes also could allow the district to recover part or all of the state aid lost through their expulsions, officials said.



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