WATERLOO | Last month’s door-knocking campaign to re-enroll Waterloo Community Schools’ dropouts is paying dividends.
Sixty students enrolled by Oct. 1 who were either officially counted as dropouts or who had not initially returned to high school this fall. That means they were included in the district’s certified enrollment, which determines per pupil state aid for the 2014-15 school year.
School districts will receive $6,366 next year for every student counted Oct. 1.
Reconnect to Graduate was held Sept. 7 for the second year. A total of 90 volunteer community members and district employees divided into 25 teams that visited 170 homes.
Ellen Vanderloo, the district’s mentor and volunteer coordinator, noted the 60 students represent more than 35 percent of the homes visited. It also is double the number of students who re-enrolled last year.
“I was shocked to see that we had such a high percentage,” she said. “Those contacts really do make a difference, I think.”
Volunteers were armed with information about a wide variety of program options available for returning students. The effort focuses on 16- to 21-year-olds who likely will be able to graduate if they return. Dropouts can re-enroll until age 21 and have to earn a diploma before their 22nd birthday.
Vanderloo noted that seven of the 60 students were considered dropouts because they didn’t return to school last year or an earlier year before the Oct. 1 count. The remaining 53 students were enrolled at that point last year but quit school sometime during the last year or just didn’t return when classes started Aug. 22.
“Many of them were needing only a few credits to graduate,” she said of the larger group of returning students. “That’s a great group of kids to get back in school. And maybe we can help them get their diplomas.”
Vanderloo said the teams were better represented with the Spanish, Bosnian and Marshallese interpreters that officials arranged to accompany the volunteers.
“I think that made a difference, too, that we had more native language speakers that could speak directly to the families,” she said.
A breakdown of which school or program students returned to was not available. However, the district’s high schools and specialty or alternative programs saw an overall enrollment increase of 87 students compared to last year.
Those increases were concentrated at East High School, which grew by 27 students, and district alternative education programs, with 106 more students. West and Expo high schools had 13 and 15 fewer students, while enrollment in two specialty programs was down by 23.
Vanderloo said some of the returning students chose traditional classes at East or West, but they were represented in all district program options. Students also can enroll in self-paced online courses with the Performance Based Diploma Academy at either school or at Expo.
Other programs at Expo Alternative Learning Center include online courses or a mix of traditional and online classes. Among those is Grad Connect, Waterloo Virtual High School Academy, Crossroads Mall School or a program offering classes after regular school hours.