N.P. Moss Preparatory considers admitting younger students

The Lafayette Parish school district’s new alternative site for students in grades five through 12 who are suspended or expelled from school may make room for younger students in the coming school year.

At least 45 spots for students in grades kindergarten through 4 will be added to the N.P. Moss Preparatory Academy at no additional cost. During the 2012-13 school year, N.P. Moss served about 2,000 students in grades five through 12 through various programs. The main program is Moss Prep, which served 408 students expelled or suspended from school for more than 10 days.

Jody Duhon, principal of N.P. Moss, gave the parish School Board an update on her school's current status and detailed its plans for younger students as part of an informational session during Wednesday's board meeting.

A committee made up of teachers, administrators and School Board member Rae Trahan also met Wednesday to begin its annual review of the district's discipline policy.

The committee plans to meet at least six times over the next two weeks and present its recommendations to the board by June 19.

Students who enter Moss Prep have an individualized behavior plan that sets out improvements and expectations. Those students who achieve an 80 percent success rate with their plan for 30 consecutive days are eligible to return to their zoned school.

Duhon said 266 of the 408 students successfully exited the program by the end of the school year and only six returned to the program.

The 142 students who didn’t complete the program will start the school year at Moss Prep, she said.

The site also houses a program for students in grades five through 12 who were suspended for fewer than 10 days, called Team Learning Center or TLC.

In the 2012-13 school year, a total of 1,278 students served 3,666 suspension days in the TLC program, Duhon said.

The site also houses a more intensive behavior modification program, called AMIKids, and two nontraditional educational programs: connections for overaged middle schoolers and the evening diploma program where high school students work at their own pace to earn a high school diploma.

School Board members expressed concern about the younger students’ presence on the campus.

Board member Hunter Beasley told Duhon he already had concerns about fifth-graders.

“When you start adding in 1-4 or K-4, you’re asking for a lot of trouble there, I believe,” Beasley said.

Duhon said each program on the campus has its own location separate from the Moss Prep students.

Duhon said there’s room in the main school building where the Moss Prep students are now housed to isolate the kindergarten through fifth-grade students on the first floor of the building for short-term or long-term suspensions or expulsions.

The second floor would house students in grades six to nine, she said, and classroom space above a separate library building will be used for grades 10 through 12.

The other programs will remain on separate areas of the campus, Duhon said.

Overall, Duhon said students have been successful in the programs and she hopes the services can reach more students who do not excel in a traditional school setting.

The school didn’t have a typical opening and major renovations to the main school building and other parts of the campus created a challenging environment during the first half of the school year, she said.

Students worked through the renovations, “bulldozers, concrete trucks” and other distractions, Duhon said.

“For our students and staff to be able to complete this kind of success, I think they need to be commended for that,” Duhon said.

Superintendent Pat Cooper interrupted a series of board members' questions about the program to praise Duhon and her staff.

Cooper said more than 500 students dropped out of school this year and “the success they had was amazing.”