MARQUETTE - After a brief hiatus, Marquette Area Public Schools' Community Education program is back with a new look, and hopefully, a new bottom line.
The program was cut - save for the GED and credit recovery programs - by the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education during its May 29 meeting.
According to MAPS central administration, Community Education was running at a loss to the district for years, and lost more than $30,000 in the 2011-2012 year.
Beginning aerial fabric instructor Liza Hunter, 30, demonstrates a stretch during class Tuesday evening in the Marquette Area Public Schools’ Community Education program. Hunter, a Marquette resident, has been a professional aerialist since she was 23. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Approaching the board with a new and improved Community Education program in August, Superintendent Deb Veiht and Director of Adult Enrichment Sara Cambensy made the case for Community Education to return to MAPS.
"We've got a way to pay for most of it and we're also able to do some new and innovative programming," Veiht said at the board's Aug. 13 meeting.
The program is now broken down into three sections: adult and community education, community enrichment and athletic enrichment.
But the biggest change to the program will come in the form of funding: the program should be able to pay for itself.
Most of the new revenue will come through state funding, as students 16 to 20 years old who enroll in the Marquette Alternative High School to earn a high school diploma will be eligible for the state's per pupil allowance in the same way as traditional students.
If enough students enroll in the district to earn their high school diploma, the revenue from the state would outweigh the expenditures.
"(The reorganization is) going to allow us to find different ways to put more into each aspect of what Community Schools was, make it more profitable, market it better and keep that programming," Cambensy said.
The athletic aspect of the Community Education program will take its profits and put them right back into the athletic budget for the district, helping cash-strapped athletic teams pay for busing, uniforms and other associated expenses.
With one month under its belt, Cambensy said the new organizational structure is working out well, and she's pleased to be able to bring the program back to the community.
"I would say the majority of people in Marquette do not have children in the public schools, so (Community Education) keeps them connected and invites them into our buildings, lets them see what we're doing and lets them learn a new skill once they're out of the K-12 education system," Cambensy said.
Cambensy's main focus is now on offering educational opportunities to people looking to complete their high school education, but may not fit into the traditional high school student demographic.
More than 100 people are currently signed up for the GED program, with 20 people falling into a target category of people under 20 years of age.
"We're trying to catch them earlier so that they don't go out in society and maybe get in trouble with the law or waste time getting this next step taken care of, which is getting the certificate," Cambensy said. "Recently, with the job market, certainly more people are coming back to get their GED certificate because a lot of places won't hire them without it ... It's getting more competitive out there and I think people are realizing that they need their diploma or the equivalent."
Cambensy said the program is always looking for GED test sponsors. With a total of five tests at a cost of $40 each, completing necessary work to receive a GED costs $200.
"The biggest reason why people don't come and test is because they can't afford to," Cambensy said, adding that anyone wishing to sponsor all or part of the GED testing is more than welcome to do so. "If people want to go in on it or organizations, anything people can do to help students who really want to do it but they don't have the financial means."
Anyone looking to sponsor all or part of a GED test can call Cambensy at 225-4213.
For a full list of community enrichment and athletic courses and to enroll in those courses, visit MAPS website at www.mapsnet.org and click on the Adult and Community Enrichment tab.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.