Central students on a fast track

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 13, 1999

A new fast track program at the Natchez-Adams Central Alternative School may give some students a chance to catch up with their peers. Central School’s programs have been expanded to include about 45 students who spent last school year at one of the district’s elementary schools.

The students are often two to three years behind in school and range from 12 to 14 years old. They can now complete two school years in one through the program, which focuses only on the exit skills a student must master in each grade level.

&uot;We don’t teach out of (any) one book,&uot;&160;said Robbie Lanehart, a fast track teacher. &uot;We teach the skills.&uot;

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The goal is to help the students get back into the regular classroom with other students their age.

&uot;We are trying to give them some type of light at the end of the tunnel,&uot; said Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis.

Student Carl Ryan, 14, who attended Morgantown Elementary last year, decided for himself to participate in the program.

&uot;I felt like I was tired of being behind and being in the same class with the younger children,&uot; he said.

The alternative school was designed to assist students with academic problems and special needs.

&uot;We are working very hard, around the clock, to get them where they need to go,&uot; said Betty Cade, the school’s new principal.

Central school has always offered accelerated programs for students who have fallen behind.

But this year’s decision to include elementary students at Central was, in part, due to the updated exit skills the district developed for each grade this summer.

The exit skills outline what a student should learn in each grade before being promoted.

The fast track program will focus on those skills.

This first semester, the students will work on exit skills for one grade and hopefully move on to the skills for the next grade the second semester, Davis said.

&uot;These kids are hyped about being here because they have a second chance,&uot; Lanehart said.

There is also a group of fast trackers at Natchez Middle, Davis said.

Older students at Central School are also in fast track programs but are being kept separate from the younger group.

This is to help ease parents’ concerns. Some parents did not want their child interacting with students who may be at Central for discipline reasons, Davis said.

&uot;I want parents to understand we are not mixing them,&uot; Davis said.

The students have a separate entrance into the school, their own lunch time and their own teachers and classrooms.

The district also hopes the fast track program will improve the public’s perception of an alternative school.

&uot;(It’s) an alternative way of educating a child,&uot; Davis said. &uot;I think too many times we equate it with discipline.&uot;

Justin Barns, 13, who attended McLaurin Elementary School last year, is another student with big dreams for the program.

&uot;I want to go to high school,&uot; Barns said. &uot;I’ve got to pass this year.&uot;