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Published April 17 2010

Central Cass aims to curb number of dropouts

This year, seven students will have dropped out of school in Casselton, N.D.

And while it seems small, for the 250-student high school, it’s reaffirmed officials’ efforts to start a new dropout-prevention program next year.

“It’s not a huge epidemic, but it’s enough where if there’s something we can do, we will,” High School Principal Steve Lorentzen said. “We have to try something.”

By next fall, the Central Cass School District hopes to start an alternative program for at-risk middle and high school students who are on the path toward dropping out.

It’s an effort other area school districts are engaged in as well, aiming to boost graduation rates.

Just this week, the Moorhead, West Fargo and Fargo school boards each approved resolutions, reaffirming their collaboration for pre-K literacy development, expanded mentoring of at-risk students and increased parent involvement.

It’s another step in the collaborative process for the three districts, aiming to address the estimated 400 Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead students who drop out each year.

In Central Cass, the school ­doesn’t have a specific person in charge of working with potential dropouts.

But now, Superintendent Mark Weston said, after studying alternative programs in West Fargo, Fargo, Moorhead and Valley City, they plan to hire someone to be a mentor and teacher to students next fall.

The program, which they expect would serve eight to 10 students initially, would be based in one of the school’s classrooms and might be expanded in a future school addition.

If the program is successful, Weston said, they could even take some students from Northern Cass and Kindred school districts.

“Every school is kind of facing the same dilemma,” School Board President Keith Gohdes added. “How do you keep kids interested (in school)? There’s

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515