COLUMBUS, Miss. (WTVA) - Superintendent of Columbus Schools Dr. Martha Liddell recently talked strategy with a group of fellow educators about the district's new dropout recovery program called Project 2020.
Its aim is to reverse the high number of students who never earn a high school diploma.
Dr. Liddell said, "Somehow or another, they get discouraged and drop out of school. What's so exciting about Project 2020 is we're going to go out, find those kids, and get them back in school. We're going to recover them."
But these school dropouts will not be in the usual classroom setting.
Instead churches, community groups and others are opening what's called Project 2020 e-Centers in Columbus.
They'll operate with flexible hours that may better fit a dropout's current schedule.
Dr. Liddell said, "Students will be able to enroll at those centers during flexible hours. For example, if you want to go in the morning from 8:00 a-m to noon or in the afternoon from 1:00 p-m to 5:00 p-m. Maybe you have a job or a small child and need to go in the evening from 6:00 p-m to 10:00 p-m. That is innovation in action. One size does not fit all."
Funding to start Project 2020 totals around $200,000 and comes from grants.
Educators say it's a small investment in the overall picture.
Dr. Liddell said, "Last school term, we had over 100 students drop out of school. Do you know that cost us a half a million dollars in state dollars? So when you're not having your kids in school and not educating them is where you're losing money."
Project 2020 is based in Columbus, but it's hoped to reach all high school dropouts in the Golden Triangle.
Project 2020 e-Centers will operate here with the hopes of bringing in dropouts from this area.
If successful, leaders say Project 2020 could serve as a model for school districts around the state.
Dr. Liddell added, "Some say what if it doesn't work. I say what if we don't try."