Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas says he wants to continue offering All City High as an alternative for students who need it. The school primarily serves overage students who don't have enough credits to graduate.
"What do you do with students who are entering ninth grade when they are 15, 16, 17, and 18, and sometimes older?" Vargas says. "These are often students who are reading at a much lower level. This is the only district that I know of that doesn't have some kind of non-traditional school for these kids."
Technically, All City is not a school; it's a program that Vargas created in 2010 as a way of re-engaging students enrolled in schools that were being phased out: Edison, Franklin, and Jefferson. Vargas says that as those schools were closing, many of the students were either drifting or dropping out.
"Those students were slowly losing all of their services," he says. "They were losing administrative help, losing counselors, and losing supportive teachers."
Vargas says the number of pupils enrolled at All City turned out to be much lower than originally anticipated — about 800 students. Many of the students who district officials thought would go to All City turned out to be "phantom" pupils. Many were not attending school in Rochester anymore. Some weren't even living in New York, but their home schools had lost track of them.
Vargas says that 351 All City students have graduated, and that the program, which was supposed to be temporary, works. But with changes imminent at East High and several other schools, he says, the district continues to need an alternative school.
"We still have so many kids that are overage and under-credited," he says.
Some principals are not pleased with the way All City operates. Students who attend All City are technically still enrolled in their home schools. Their success or failure reflects on their home schools' records even though they do not receive instruction there.
The school board would have to approve any plan for All City to continue to operate. Board President Van White says he wants to see more data showing the effectiveness of the program.