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Schools, STC may open Gateway for dropouts
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Reg Hendricks, executive vice president for Savannah Technical College, presented the charter for the Effingham Gateway to College Academy to the school board Wednesday.

“It’s been a long process with a lot of work on the part of your folks,” Hendricks said.

The program is funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It targets dropouts from 16 to 20 years old and those students in danger of dropping out, according to Hendricks.

“Students essentially receive a scholarship to go to college,” he said. “There is no cost to these students. Books are covered also.”

Hendricks said Effingham County schools will earn credit for the students graduating.

“As these students are in the Gateway program, they are earning college credit that is aligned with high school graduation requirements,” Hendricks said.

The staff of the program will work with the county school system, and when the students have completed the high school requirements, they receive a diploma from the county.

Hendricks said there is a low number of students to what the program calls resource specialists the students will work with, and there will never be more than 50 students to one resource specialist.

During the first 14 weeks of the program, the students go through what is called the foundation term. Students are given a refresher in math, reading and English and are given a course called college success and survival that teaches them how to study and how to work with teachers and students.

Hendricks said the next term is the transition term, where students are integrated into classes with the rest of the Savannah Tech student body. During that term resource specialists will have daily contact with the student.
He said typical students in the program have a grade point average of 2.0 or lower. Students must live in the county and have a strong desire to graduate from high school.

One of the requirements is a reading level of eighth grade, Hendricks said. He said the charter has been modified to allow students with a seventh grade reading level in the program who will take classes to bring their reading level to the eighth grade level before they enter the program.

Hendricks said the reason the school system needs a charter for students who will be attending Savannah Tech is because when the students complete the high school requirements they will not receive a high school diploma from the college but from the school system.

He said Savannah Tech and the school board need a memorandum of understanding in regards to funding of the program.

Hendricks said there are still changes that need to be made to the charter.

Board Chairperson Vera Jones asked for revised versions of the charter to be sent to board members. Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff told the board the charter will set up another school in the county.

Hendricks said he wanted to bring the matter back to the board at its Sept. 20 meeting.

“At that point in time I will ask for your approval for a charter to operate the Gateway to College program,” he said.

Jones said the board will vote on the charter then.