Scottsbluff Public Schools continues withdrawal from VALTS

In a March 5, 2017, file photo, a VALTS science instructor assists a student building a guitar in science class. Scotts Bluff Public Schools is withdrawing from VALTS.

Scottsbluff Public Schools Board of Education approved a bylaws amendment for an agreement between a number of Panhandle school districts, continuing the SBPS’ withdrawal from the Valley Alternative Learning Transitioning School, or VALTS.

VALTS is an interlocal cooperative agreement between eight Panhandle school districts that give students of member districts alternative paths to high school graduation.

The program receives money from school districts and provides slots in the program proportional to the money provided. The students are selected based on several criteria, including the district’s recommendation, self-expressed desire to graduate and an intake interview.

For the 2019-2020 school year, SBPS had eight slots in the program costing the district $59,168, according to SBPS Executive Director of Finance Marianne Carlson. Carlson said the district will have five slots this school year. Carlson said the money would be reassigned during the budget cycle.

For reference, Gering Public School district has 20 slots, the most of any of the nine school districts in the program.

SBPS elected to withdraw from the program in February 2019, beginning a two-year process set to conclude at the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

“We’ve grown so much (since the agreement began). Both in terms of size and in terms of scope of programming that we offer,” SBPS Superintendent Rick Myles said.

Myles said SBPS programs like ReConnect and CHOICES fill the graduation needs VALTS is supposed to address.

“VALTS, in particular, makes sense for smaller districts,” Myles said.

ESU 13 Director of Alternative Education George Schlothauer, who oversees VALTS, declined an interview for this story.

When SPBS notified VALTS of their intentions to withdraw in 2019, a memo to the SBPS Board said the district provided $58,000 to VALTS for eight seats in the program.

“It is also possible that a new, more reasonable financial arrangement can be agreed upon,” the 2019 memo said.

Myles said this language was meant to be an olive branch to the program and ESU 13, an overarching coordinating body of the Panhandle’s school districts.

“It was a way to say we really think highly of ESU 13, we really think highly of the VALTS program and we value our partnership with ESU 13,” Myles said.

Sidney Public Schools in Cheyenne County will be joining the VALTS program.

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