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Facing Funding Cuts, Continuation Schools Struggle to Serve Students in Need

California continuation schools are in trouble -- but some are racking up triumphs, even amid the fiscal pain.

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The school has been running its afternoon program until 6 p.m., funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant that runs out in December. Fair View recently lost its bid for new funding; CUSD's John Bohannon, director of alternative education, said the extended day was out-ranked by other high school programs in the state that applied for the competitive grant.

"These are the things that make this difficult — finding ways to continue to fund the programs that help make a school successful," Bohannon said.

CUSD says it's committed to its alternative education "pathway"; it now runs four alternative programs, including Fair View, on a campus that once housed an elementary school.

But administrators admit that the alternative ed track runs on innovative thinking. Fair View, for example, has developed a list of more than 40 local businesses and non-profits that have signed on as "community partners." Those organizations and agencies provide scholarships, internships and financial aid to students who may need groceries or shoes.

The community partners figure prominently in plans to build a facility for construction classes on the Fair View campus that was approved May 17 by the CUSD Board of Trustees. Now, McKay said, they'll be tapped to help maintain an extended school day. But he warns that the afternoon program is "not going to look the same."

Four years ago, the California Alternative Education Research Project produced a study showing that continuation schools were viewed as a "cornerstone of the state's drop-out prevention strategy."

In the 2012 study, authors Jorge Ruiz de Velasco of UC Berkeley and Milbrey McLaughlin of Stanford say that successful continuation schools offered expanded learning time, but the “quality and range of learning time… was determined solely by the accident of local resource availability and the self-determined level of effort at individual sites."


Leslie Layton is a freelance writer and edits ChicoSol .

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