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Louisiana school district to let kids stay home on Fridays | Education

Baker High juniors and seniors who acquit themselves well in the classroom will soon be able to stay home every Friday.

The City of Baker school district announced this new student incentive earlier this month. The one-day-a-week-off perk will take effect in August when Baker High returns to its historic 3200 Groom Road campus after eight years of exile; the high school flooded in August 2016.

Supt. J.T. Stroder, who led the small suburban Baton Rouge school district for the past year, said the idea for the perk came to him a few weeks ago as he was trying to figure out a way to motivate students.

Stroder, who mentors a few Baker High students in addition to his day job, said of particular concern is the historically “lackadaisical” attitude with which many Baker students approach annual state-mandated LEAP testing — LEAP stands for Louisiana Educational Assessment Program. Last year just 8% of Baker students demonstrated mastery or better on LEAP tests.

“I’ve always tried to look at what are some pro-active things we can do to try to address the concerns we have with some of our students,” Stroder explained.

Students have four broad criteria they’ll need to meet to qualify:

  • Good daily attendance
  • No discipline issues
  • On level or better grade-point average.
  • Proficiency on LEAP exams as well as internal standardized tests known as MAP, short for Measures of Academic Progress.

Candance Russell, the principal of Baker High, is still nailing down the precise targets students will have to meet to land the perk.

Stroder said the bar won’t be set too high. For instance, the school is considering setting the minimum GPA at 2.0.

Before settling on the idea, Stroder assembled juniors and seniors — there are about 140 students in those two grades — to see what they thought. He said the idea generated an enthusiastic response.

“Just the excitement, the support and the way they responded to it showed us that this is something we really need to do,” Stroder said.

Stroder says it’s still being worked out how the Fridays off will work in practice. He said students may still need to work from home virtually at least part of the day on Fridays to keep up with their classes.

One benefit for students is they will be able work more hours if they have jobs outside of school. And he said it will also benefit the students who don’t qualify because the smaller classes every Friday will mean those students can get more help from their teachers those days and more chances to catch up with their coursework.

He said that he’s looking to promote this perk to students starting in middle school so they can improve their performance sufficiently before they reach 11th grade.

Stroder is also hoping that he’ll soon have more students at Baker High who can pursue this perk. Districtwide enrollment has inched up over the course of this school year districtwide and at the high school, which has about 330 students currently.

Another reason for optimism is the $23.4 million in renovations and construction to the high school that is scheduled to conclude in July. School leaders have blamed the lack of a good high school facility for enrollment declines over the past few years.

Brian Budd, a program director with the construction management firm CSRS, briefed the City of Baker School Board Tuesday night on the progress with construction. He said the project is on track and he’s liking what he’s seeing.

“You’re going to be impressed,” Budd said. “It’s really an incredible facility.”

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