Students who want to return to school after dropping out now have a friendly place in School District headquarters that will evaluate their needs and place them – space permitting – in an appropriate program where they can continue their education.
The Re-engagement Center, which has been quietly operating since May, had a formal kickoff in August and has staff from both the District and the city departments of human services and behavioral health.
Citing a dropout rate approaching 50 percent and a particular crisis among Black and Latino males, officials touted it as the first center of its kind in the country. “There is nothing more important to [Mayor Nutter] than solving this dropout crisis,” said the city’s Chief Education Officer, Lori Shorr, a prime mover behind the center.
Having the center in the District’s central office, she said, “sends a message.”
District Director of Multiple Pathways to Graduation Courtney Collins- Shapiro said that 8,000 students drop out of city schools each year. “They need to come back to a different environment,” she said, and added that Philadelphia is developing a reputation as “leading cities nationwide to develop a system that works to re-engage out-of-school youth.”
Laura Shubilla, director of the Philadelphia Youth Network, said that there are about 1,200 slots in different programs for students who want to return to school. In recent years, a lack of capacity in the alternative schools has resulted in long waiting lists.
Students who come to the center will be evaluated on the spot through interviews and computerized testing of their reading levels. There will also be student peer advisors.
“Our charge is to help them find the right option,” said Collins-Shapiro.
For information, contact the Reengagement Center at 215-400-6700.