SIDNEY — Tom Roll and Tom Clark, academic adviser and program coordinator, respectively, of the Shelby County Opportunity School, addressed the Kiwanis Club of Sidney during a recent meeting.
The Opportunity School is an alternative school for students who are short on credit hours and run the risk of not graduating from high school, they said. Students are referred from Sidney High School and the seven county high schools.
The school is considered full at 62 students and this year’s enrollment currently stands at 67. More than 1,200 students have been served since the doors opened in 2000, with 900 receiving diplomas. Classes are between 3 and 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday afternoons.
Roll explained that many students attending the Opportunity School have not functioned well within the parameters of a tradition school setting. One telling statistic is that one third of this year’s students are living with someone other than a biological parent, an all-time high.
Some of the reasons for referral to the Opportunity School are teen pregnancy, substance abuse, credit deficiency, court involvement and attendance issues. Most students are at least one half to more than two years behind their peers when they are referred to the program. Credits are made up by completing an online curriculum and by successfully completing work experience during their nonschool hours.
At its lowest point, Sidney High School had a graduation rate of 62 percent. It is now 90 to 93 percent.
“I would like to think that we’ve had an impact on that number,” Roll said.
Clark talked about the new Career Quest Mentoring Program for the 2017-18 school year. The Opportunity School is currently recruiting mentors to work with students.
“We currently have 19 mentors and 21 mentees,” said Clark. “However, we have a waiting list of 10 students and 15 more starting in January.”
Mentors will be trained through Rhodes State College and Big Brother Big Sisters. Volunteer hours will vary based on the mentor’s availability and 1 to 2 hours per week is desired. Goals include preparing for 21st-century careers, building character, developing pathways to achievement, building resiliency and believing in a positive future.