Vancouver school district receives ‘Building Bridges’ grant

$140,000 over 2 years will aim to help more students graduate

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 

Vancouver is one of three school organizations in the state to receive a $140,000 grant to help students stay in high school.

Vancouver Public Schools, the Granite Falls School District and Educational Service District 113 are getting the two-year “Building Bridges” grants, the state’s office of public instruction announced Tuesday.

Each grant winner will get $50,000 for the first year and $90,000 for the second to build a dropout warning and intervention system.

The money also will fund specialists who will provide at-risk students with the academic and social support they need to graduate.

Karla Schlosser, Vancouver’s administrator for special services, said the district will hold off on hiring until January, just in case the Washington Legislature’s special session undercuts the “Building Bridges” program.

If things go according to plan, Schlosser said, Vancouver will hire one specialist to split time between Columbia River and Skyview high schools. That staff member will be known as an “educational advocate.”

The advocate, Schlosser said, “will work with kids to provide options when they are not being successful.

“What are the barriers to their being successful in school? That person will be trained in programs in the district and in the county, and will offer other resources. Sometimes, the barriers are not related to education,” Schlosser said.

The “Building Bridges” project is just one element in the effort to boost the district high school graduation rate, said Mike Stromme, associate superintendent.

“Last year, at the high school level, we weren’t very happy with our on-time graduation rate,” Stromme said. “We had dipped to 64 percent for on-time graduation, and 68 percent for extended graduation.

“That was a cause for action on our part,” Stromme said. “It refocused us on how to keep these students in school and get them across the finish line.”

The “Building Bridges” effort at Skyview and Columbia River will complement other intervention efforts initiated at those two schools, as well as Fort Vancouver and Hudson’s Bay high schools.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558 or tom.vogt@columbian.com.