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Cochise County teen turns to online school for dropout students to finish her high school diploma

Posted at 4:39 PM, May 20, 2024

COCHISE COUNTY, Ariz (KGUN) — According to the Arizona Department of Education, the state had a 6% drop-out rate for high school students last year, which is higher than the national average.

In 2023, Cochise County had a 7% drop-out rate for high school students and Pima County had an 8.5% drop-out rate. Both are higher than the state average.

The Cochise County Superintendent’s Office is helping dropouts get their high school diploma, with its New Crossroads Academy.

“We are obligated to educate all children and we need to change how we see education,” said assistant superintendent for New Crossroads, Wendy Conger.

New Crossroads Academy is an online public school for people 16 to 22 years old, who have been out of school for at least 30 days. Conger says most of their students are working or have other challenges that have prevented them from being in a classroom.

“We need to think outside the box," Conger said. "It’s our obligation to provide opportunities so they are successful.”

Chloe Finley attended multiple schools in Cochise County trying to find where she fit in. She dropped out last year, because of bullying and not feeling heard by her teachers.

“I pretty much said 'I’m done, I’m going to get my GED,'" Finley said. "I was pretty much running out of schools in the county.”

Conger contacted Finley and her mom, Ashley, to let them know about New Crossroads Academy. The teen had been out of school for five months before being approached by Conger.

Chloe, who says she's not the biggest fan of online school, says she likes the program so far because the teachers are working with her. The online program allows Chloe to work at her own pace and around her work schedule. She says she's moving through her course work faster than she would in a classroom.

“You can pretty much do it whenever and where-ever," Chloe said. "It’s not so much the flexibility that I care about. It’s more so about getting it done.”

Chloe's mom, Ashley says the flexibility gives her daughter the opportunity to travel more and gain "worldly" experiences.

“It’s good for her," Ashely said. "She’s becoming herself and getting more confident again in herself.”

Conger says there are 43 students enrolled who live in Cochise County and there are more than 300 students enrolled across the state. She says she hopes the school can continue to grow and be an option for students.

“What I’d like to see is to see, that this continues and expands where we can make further connections with kids and build relationships that are lasting, forever,” Conger said.

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Alexis Ramanjulu is a reporter in Cochise County for KGUN 9. She began her journalism career reporting for the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista, which she also calls home. Share your story ideas with Alexis by emailing alexis.ramanjulu@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook.