The Olentangy school board on Feb. 24 heard the results of a six-month study which recommends moving alternative education programs to district facilities.

The Olentangy school board on Feb. 24 heard the results of a six-month study which recommends moving alternative education programs to district facilities.

Jennifer Blakley, an Olentangy curriculum supervisor, detailed the findings of her 26-page report. She said the district likely could better serve its most at-risk students while saving money it currently pays to send those children to out-of-district programs.

Alternative education typically replaces normal classroom instruction and is used for students at risk of dropping out or failing because of mental health or behavioral issues.

The district currently serves about 65 students through some form of alternative education. Another 58 students living in the district who use alternative education methods, such as online schooling, and don't attend an Olentangy school.

The district spends about $400,000 annually to send at-risk students to out-of-district programs, and as Olentangy continues to grow, so will the need for such services, Blakley said.

In addition to recovering some of the state education funds the district loses when its pupils go elsewhere, Olentangy could better monitor students and maintain a stronger bond with them and their families, Blakley said.

The graduation rates for Olentangy students enrolled in alternative education programs ranges from 96 percent at its in-house career-based instruction programs available at Olentangy and Liberty high schools to just 58 percent at Rockbridge Academy in Worthington.

"Fifty-eight percent to me is simply not acceptable," Blakley said.

Blakley had sought approval to do a feasibility study to explore renovating a barn on board-owned property off 3 B's and K Road, where Berkshire Middle School is under construction.

Board members declined to approve a study, citing cost concerns over renovating an old structure and whether transporting students from different areas to one corner of the district would make the most fiscal sense.

They did however encourage Blakley to continue studying the possibility of bringing alternative education in house and said they would be open to hearing cost-benefit figures, as well as what other districts are doing.

Interim superintendent Jeff Brown said the district will continue at other possible sites and gather more information.

In other news, Brown announced that as many as 1,500 kindergartners are expected to enroll for the 2009-2010 school year when registration begins March 2.

Registration information is available at www.olentangy.k12.oh.us.

Olentangy will welcome its newest superintendent, Wade Lucas, with a community reception before the next school board meeting.

The reception, which is open to the public, will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at district headquarters, 814 Shanahan Road.

The regular March board meeting will follow the reception at 6 p.m.