BLADEN COUNTY -- In Bladen County last year about 1,700 students started the year off in the county's two high schools. By the end of the year 148 of them dropped out. Now school officials are working to lower that number. Compared with those 148 students, 106 students dropped out of Bladen County schools the previous year. The 40 percent increase has them understandably concerned. Bladen County education officials say there are several factors contributing to the dropouts. Family life and large class sizes are two. A few dropouts are pregnancy-related. A number of programs have been created to help keep kids in school. A credit recovery program allows students to make-up lost credits if they fail a course and an improved summer school program covers many more courses than in the past. Attendance and Dropout Specialist Tim Benton said, "One is too many. Believe me, I anguish over every student that drops out." Students in Bladen County who get suspended get in trouble in their schools, or have behavioral problems have the option to go to the school of extended hope. It's an alternative school that works with the students so they don't have to be sitting at home or out on the streets. Superintendent Ken Dinkins said he would like to see more programs put in place in the elementary and middle school levels, before students even have time to think about dropping out in high school. The county seems to be on the right track this school year in the fall semester six high school seniors dropped out, compared with an average of 30 in years past.
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