Vital alternative to suspension program at Kyrene in danger of being cut - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Communitylife

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Vital alternative to suspension program at Kyrene in danger of being cut

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Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 12:00 am

When children receive out-of-school suspensions, common sense dictates that sending them home where they are unsupervised during the day may not be the most constructive idea.

Six years ago Kyrene School District recognized that there had to be a better way to handle out-of-school suspensions, and, as a result ,the Kyrene Alternative to Suspension Program (KASP) was born.

When students receive suspensions, they are given the choice to spend the time in KASP instead of at home. While at KASP, students receive academic instruction in math and language arts so that they do not fall behind in their school work.

“KASP not only supports students in terms of academic achievement while they’re away from their home school, but it also offers them character education so that they can correct whatever behavior it was that sent them there in the first place,” said Anne Schelling, assistant principal at Centennial Middle School.

Robert Harding, a teacher at KASP, believes the program is a far better option than sitting at home to serve a suspension.

“When kids get suspensions and are removed from their school settings they are really getting what they most wanted, which was to be out of school,” Harding said. “When they sit at home they don’t learn anything from the suspension and they fall behind in their academics.”

Ensuring that the children who participate in KASP have learned from the program is a crucial aspect of KASP. Before students can re-enter their home campuses, they meet with their teachers and parents to discuss their progress.

“When the kids go back to school I have them explain what they’ve learned from the experience,” Harding said. “We try to get them to understand that they’re not bad kids, they’re just kids who have made bad choices.”

After working in KASP for the past six years, Harding has found that students will not change their behavior unless they really want to.

“The trick is that they have to find value in the change or they won’t make the change,” he said. “My job is to help them see the value.”

When KASP was launched six years ago it was funded by federal money, and to continue the program in recent years KSD has drawn from money provided by tax revenues from Proposition 301. KSD is currently appealing to the community to ensure that KASP continues on.

“With the economy, tax revenues are significantly less, so we don’t have the funds to continue to support this program as much as in the past,” said Kelly Alexander, community education and outreach services director for KSD. “If community members need a place to put their tax credit dollars at this time of the year, KASP is a valuable and research-based, proven program that we certainly value at Kyrene.”

Robert Harding hopes the community stands up to support KASP because of the loss that would be incurred by KSD students if the program ended.

“It’s not about us teachers keeping the jobs we have. It’s more about the opportunity that will be taken away from the kids who need it if the program is discontinued,” he said. “Over 600 kids have come to this program and a majority of them have made major life changes.”

The KASP program is located at Kyrene del Pueblo Middle School in Chandler, but students from all KSD schools can attend.

For more information or to donate to KASP, visit www.kyrene.org.

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