School board cuts program for at-risk teens
The Halifax Regional School Board is cutting the Youth Pathways and Transitions program, which helps high school students who struggle to stay in school.
School board chair Irvine Carvery said it was a difficult decision but the program is too expensive for a board that has been told to trim $11 million from its budget.
"This program is very expensive, serving a small number of students even though it's important and we see the benefit of it," Carvery told CBC News on Thursday.
"When you weigh it to the needs of all the rest of the students, it's unfortunately one of those decisions that had to be made."
Cutting the program — which is run out of the Quinpool Education Centre at the former St. Patrick's High School building — will save the board about $700,000.
Six staff are employed at the centre, assisting students who have been suspended or are regularly skipping classes. There are currently 27 students in the program, leaving plenty of time for one-on-one instruction at a slower pace.
Jeremy Tripp and Shannon Simpson, who both came into the program three months ago from Halifax West High School, said it has made a difference in their lives.
"No teacher wanted to teach me. I was just a nuisance. I was a disrespectful student and this school taught me how to be a proper 18 year old," said Tripp.
"They teach you how to have an adult conversation, which I think a lot of students don't really get to have. They feel like, 'I'm a student that's all I am.' And here you realize that you actually are a person, you can be who you want to be."
Simpson said she was comforted by the smaller classes and knowing there was always someone to talk to.
"I'd go to school and I would not make it. I would come home at random times through the day, just skip," said Simpson.
"I've been here for three months and it built me up."
The program cut is a result of the province cutting two per cent from school boards' budgets. The measure, announced in February, also includes cutting administration costs by 15 per cent and consultant fees by 50 per cent over three years.
Carvery said he is looking into opening an alternative high school at the site of Joseph Howe Elementary School, set to close in 2013.