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Evening high school in jeopardy

By Trina Trice

The closing of Clayton County's Evening School is up for consideration, say school officials.

The school's enrollment has dropped significantly since the last school year, from more than 700 to 74, said interim Superintendent Dr. William Chavis.

Due to the dramatic decline in students taking courses at Evening School, a committee is being formed to look into whether or not the school should stay open, Chavis recently said.

Students such as LaKera Gilbert and Danisha Jones, both seniors at Mt. Zion and Riverdale high schools, respectively, don't think closing the Evening School is a good idea.

Gilbert is currently taking Algebra II and Jones is taking a sophomore English class.

Both need to make up the classes in order to graduate.

"The evening school is more convenient, instead of the morning classes (they offer elsewhere). If the school was closed, there would be a lot of seniors who wouldn't be able to graduate."

The Evening School opened in 1991, based on a proposal from Dr. Leon Dalton, then the school system's Director of Research and Evaluation.

Current Evening School Principal Dr. L. Bobby Rorie saw the school's enrollment grow since he joined the staff in 1994.

In 2002, enrollment reached an all-time high with 1,538 students. By the end of the last mini-semester of the regular 2002-2003 school year, though, enrollment dropped to 769.

But the school's current enrollment of 74 students shouldn't be alarming, as numbers are low in the first mini-semester of the school year, Rorie said.

"When school first opens in the fall, there is low enrollment," he said. "The second mini-semester, we generally have many more students. In the fall, they're just getting back into the swing of things. By the end of the first mini-semester (students) know what they need to take."

Some school administrators suggest that the offering of online courses and summer school for remediation have lured students away from using the Evening School when making up classes.

"Offering online courses is good," Rorie said. "But they need more opportunities for more courses. What would be good is if some of those online courses were offered during the evening school. I know online courses are offered at no charge to the student ? but of the surrounding areas, our evening high school we're the lowest."

Tuition for Evening School costs $190, which pays for the salaries of the school's teachers.

Jones thinks the tuition is necessary.

"It'll make you think twice about failing a class," she said. "It'll make you take it seriously when you do it the first time."

Rorie contends that Evening School is still a viable option for students.

"Students need the evening program to graduate on time," he said. "In the eight years since I became Evening High School Principal, I have had the opportunity to see thousands of our students seize their chance to get back on track academically. (They've) become eligible once again to participate in extra curricular and sports activities and walk with honor across the stage as they graduated with their classmates. Seeing those accomplishments makes my job worthwhile."