Roosevelt High School has been Natrona County's "alternative school" for decades at its former building in north Casper and now at the Pathways Innovation Center in west Casper.

But it has had a stubborn history of high dropout and low graduation rates.

During a school district work session on Monday, Roosevelt principal Shawna Trujillo and the principals of Kelly Walsh, Natrona County and Midwest high schools told trustees how they cooperated to propose a major overhaul how the schools will help the area's most at-risk students.

District trustee Dana Howie said federal and state law define "alternative school" as one that offers programs to students with needs that a district finds are not or cannot be met by other schools in the district system.

Wyoming has 20 alternative schools, with Roosevelt being the largest, Howie said.

It has operated as a "school of choice" in the district, but that means its students must earn 26.5 credits to graduate.

But that doesn't fit the needs of many students served by Roosevelt and at-risk students at the other high schools.

Their needs are complex.

They are emotionally challenged, and deal with pregnancies, dysfunctional home lives, trauma, substance abuse, homelessness and other issues that leave learning as a low priority in their lives, Howie said.

Trujillo said 64% of Roosevelt's students receive free or reduced-cost lunches, and 40% are in special education programs.

"They come with needs that cannot be addressed in any other setting," she said.

Learning for them is hard and school is not pleasant, but they still need a life and they still need a career and they still need a plan, Trujillo said.

Under the proposed policy, students would need to apply to Roosevelt, and the school would work with them on an individual basis to determine what they need, she said.

They must have skin in the game, too, Trujillo said. "They'd better able to be a problem-solver, they'd better be a great communicator when they leave our schools, and then they need to have a plan."

The graduation plan would align their education with their needs, and lower the credit-hour requirement to 20, she said. "That's our proposal to the board -- is that we lower it to 20, focus really heavily on the core plus a sequence hopefully of four electives geared in their area of interest or career focus."

That in no way means Roosevelt would be lowering standards compared to requirements for other students in other high schools, Trujillo said.

"We're shifting the expectations," she said. "It really is a shift. It's about aligning the needs, leveling the playing fields for all learners."

Trujillo and other school administrators in the district have not spoken to families and students yet because they need the support from the board of trustees first, she said.

After they receive the support from the board and have the policy changed, then they will go to the public.

If all goes well, the policy committee will review the draft and present it to the full board for the first reading and approval at the board's May 13 meeting, and then for the second reading and final approval at the meeting in June.

"And then we'll be ready to roll it out in the fall; graduating class of 2020," she said.

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