- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Jefferson County school administrators are trying to prepare for the dropout age in the district to increase to 18 next year.

Although the move has been applauded, administrators told The Courier-Journal (https://cjky.it/1qSjZBi) that they expect an increase of about 2,800 more students who will be labeled as habitually truant. In addition, officials will have to bring back students who have already dropped out, but will be too young to stay out of school under the new rules.

Jefferson County officials are working to identify the short-term impacts and bolster responses for at-risk students.

“This has never been done before,” said Sam Rich, director of pupil personnel for Jefferson County Public Schools. “The bar just raised.”

The increase in dropout age goes into effect statewide in 2017, but it is starting earlier in some school districts including JCPS.

“I have rough ideas of how to deal with this but I won’t know until I get in and see it,” said Rich, who supports the higher dropout age but noted that it will create logistical issues.

“It’s like a home being rehabbed. There will be surprise costs.”

JCPS spokeswoman Mandy Simpson said officials are trying to increase awareness of the alternatives and options in already offers including different magnets, career programs and alternative schools.

Simpson said newly created “transition centers” that started this year will aid students who are coming back after dropping out or those who have several absences.

Moreover, the district is piloting “at-risk committees” at three high schools in an effort to find at-risk students and intervene early.

District Court Judge Dee McDonald, who presides over the juvenile delinquency docket, said all the changes are “kind of overwhelming right now when you look at it, but … we have a lot of people on board who really care about the kids and are committed to making this work.”

McDonald said the main question is how to keep students more interested in learning than in skipping class or dropping out.

“I hope there are things to engage these older kids and keep them there,” she said.

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, https://www.courier-journal.com

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