BLUE EARTH - Sometimes, high school students can't earn enough credits to graduate with the rest of their class, but at Blue Earth Area Schools there is a solution.
"There's such a strong correlation between the amount of education a student gets and the amount of success they have later in life," said Rich Schneider, high school principal.
The more education, the more employable they will be, and the more likely they will be better parents, he noted.
There are numerous reasons why students might fall short, and it has nothing to do with not being smart enough to keep up, Schneider said.
Some could become parents while in high school; go through a long illness; suffer a death in the family or other trauma; or come from a different state or school district that has different graduation requirements, he said.
"Graduation requirements vary from district to district. We require 26 credits," Schneider said.
Other districts may require fewer, but the state minimum is 21 and a half.
"The local [school] board is given leeway to set standards as they see it," Schneider said.
He noted that Blue Earth Area's block schedule allows students more opportunity to earn credits: eight in a year, while the traditional seven-period days give students seven credits per year.
Blue Earth Area tries to help students keep up. If a student is ill, the district will provide them with homebound instruction or tutoring to bridge the gap, as long as a child is not contagious. Online classes are another option.
Often, students aren't that far behind.
"One young lady needed four classes," Schneider said. "Usually, they failed a class."
When that happens, the school is obligated by state law to keep educating a student.
"We have to provide them with an education until they graduate or turn 21," Schneider said.
Sometimes the shortfall can be made up over the summer, allowing kids to start college on time. If not, there are other options.
Students could choose to come back as "fifth-year high schoolers" taking classes alongside their younger counterparts.
"We feel what we offer here is better because of one-on-one assistance and teacher-driven interaction," Schneider said.
Students who don't feel comfortable going back to the traditional high school can opt to attend the Alternative Learning Center in Winnebago, or get their GED certificate.
Students who still don't have enough credits by age 21 are not be educated in the school building. Not only would the district not receive state funding for them, but the discrepancy in ages becomes too great, Schneider said. Students older than 21 can qualify for adult education services or GED program.
Whichever way they do it, it is important for young people to get at least a high school education, Schneider said. Most employers require a high school diploma or GED; even the military stresses getting at least a GED or some opportunities will not be available.
"They get the education, then open the doors to obtain opportunities," Schneider noted.