Changes for Calcasieu Parish alternative students - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Changes for Calcasieu Parish alternative students

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(Erica Bivens / KPLC) (Erica Bivens / KPLC)
(Erica Bivens / KPLC) (Erica Bivens / KPLC)
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Calcasieu's alternative students head back to school starting August 13 for elementary and August 20 for middle and high school. But where they're headed may be different this year.

Tuesday, the Calcasieu Parish School Board approved the Curriculum and Instruction Committee's recommendation to merge several alternative sites. At full implementation, Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus estimates it will cost $500,000.

School officials see it as a way to better streamline Calcasieu's alternative programs as well as resources. But as with any change, there's always some concern.

"We've merged CASES and Positive Connections into one program," explained Dr. Betty Washington, the new Director of Alternative Programs in Calcasieu Parish. 

Washington says the two elementary alternative sites will now be located at the Weaver facility. 

"Both programs will serve those students in need of behavioral and mental health support," said Washington.

But it's their new tiered system that officials say is a more efficient way to manage students.

"We'll have a Tier 1 for those students who we are preparing to return to their home school. We'll have a Tier 2 for those students in need a little more support and more skills before returning to their home school. And a Tier 3, those students in need of intensive support," explained Washington.

A similar tiered system will be used for the new middle and high school Calcasieu Parish Alternative Site at Reynaud Middle School.

For Bridget Oglesby, the alternative program works.

"CPAS has been a successful, positive goal for my child," said Oglesby, a parent of a current CPAS student.

But some have concerns about the merging of programs.

Parents posted some on KPLC's Facebook wall.

One wrote, "All they are doing is labeling the kids and lumping two groups with different needs together."

Another wrote, I am "very concerned about what these changes mean for my autistic daughter."

But Washington hopes to put those concerns to rest, stating they'll have hallway security as well as, "behavioral interventionists and social workers to monitor the behaviors of those students."

And while alternative programs may have a negative stigma associated with them, parents say the labeling needs to stop.

"This is their second chance. They're learning to be successful individuals and hold a job later on in their careers," said Oglesby.

Also new this year, students will have bus transportation to and from school. Officials say they hope it will cut down on tardiness and absence as well as keep students safe.

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