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Extended hours help KCSS students juggle school and other responsibilities

This semester KCSS has extended its hours to help students earn high school credits in less time than they might at a traditional high school. Previously, the school day ended at 2:30 p.m. Now, students can arrive as late as lunchtime and stay until 5:45 p.m. or they can arrive at the customary 7:30 a.m. start and work through the longer school day. The three extra hours allow students with scheduling conflicts due to employment and childcare issues to work toward earning their high school diploma. This year eight KCSS students also are enrolled in Woodruff Career and Technical Center (WCTC) programs, enabling them to graduate from high school with employment skills they can use immediately.
Recently, Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat led Illinois Secretary of Education Susan Purvis, her colleague Sara Shaw, managing director of K-12 strategy, and State Senator Chuck Weaver on a tour of five Peoria Public Schools to show some ways the Peoria Public Schools are meeting the diverse needs of our students.

The first stop on the tour was Knoxville Center for Student Success (KCSS). The success of students at KCSS illustrates that where education is concerned, one size does not fit all.

KCSS serves 128 high school students. These students face unusual and daunting life challenges, making success at their traditional high school elusive. Many are parents and have other family responsibilities and jobs. Some have fallen behind academically due to behavior issues, illness or family hardship. Some simply have been unable to negotiate the large class sizes and relative anonymity of the District’s larger high schools.

Through small class sizes, a nine-period school day, high teacher-student ratio and a combination of compassion, humor, discipline and tough love, KCSS staff give students a high level of personal attention and support to achieve graduation. The school has a no-cell-phone policy and conversation and behavior is carefully monitored. Fewer distractions allow students to earn missing credits at a rapid pace through traditional classroom and individual computer work.

Extended school hours are another example of the services KCSS staff provides its unique student population. At times, staff members have helped homeless students find emergency housing, clothing and food vouchers. Students can receive individual counseling, small-group counseling, anger management and parenting classes to help them overcome obstacles to graduation. Community organizations including the Tri-county Urban League, fraternities, sororities and churches, provide tutoring, life skills training, college readiness and employment services. In fact, Senator Weaver who accompanied this week’s tour is familiar with KCSS. Weaver and his wife, Laurie, have taught cooking classes to the school’s students.

KCSS is a prime example of how the Peoria Public Schools are providing a world-class education for every student.