OGDEN -- Weber School District Superintendent Jeff Stephens learned of a neighboring district's decision to eliminate its adult education program Thursday morning, when the Utah State Office of Education emailed him a letter.
The letter said that, because the Ogden School District had dropped its program, effective June 28, state officials were, "... therefore asking the Weber School District to assume full responsibilities," Stephens said, quoting from the letter.
The letter also said that resources for the 2013-14 school year would be reallocated so the Weber School District would be getting $267,945 to help cover costs of absorbing the Ogden district program.
"We are going to do everything we possibly can to sustain services for the adults who are currently being served in this program," Stephens said Friday. "Already this morning, I have begun meetings with different agencies to explore locations for these services."
About 250 students seeking their high school diplomas are being served by the Ogden district's adult education program.
Ogden district Superintendent Brad Smith said Thursday that he discontinued the program because it took too much time and focus from Sarah Roberts, principal of George Washington High School, the alternative school where the adult education program was housed.
George Washington High, 455 28th St., is near downtown Ogden, and many district adult education students got to George Washington High by walking or taking the bus, said Sharilyn Gerber, longtime lead teacher in the Ogden School District Adult Education Program.
Gerber, who also is a member of the Weber School Board, said the Ogden district's adult education program serves "the poorest of the poor."
Stephens said he is working with community partners to find places closer to downtown Ogden where adult education students can take classes, thus saving adult learners from having to go to Two Rivers High School, a Weber district adult education site that is almost four miles from George Washington High and can only be reached over high-traffic roads.
"At Weber School District, we aggressively support their effort as they pursue their high school diplomas, without any discontinuation of services and with as little inconvenience as possible," Stephens said of adult education students.
"We admire and respect their efforts to pursue their high school diplomas."
Stephens said Friday that he was only 24 hours into his plan to start additional adult education classes by July 1, so there are many details to be worked out.
He expects to offer evening classes at Ogden's Canyon View Elementary, 1100 Orchard Ave., owned by Weber School District. Canyon View is less than 3 miles northeast of George Washington High.
Stephens also has a tentative agreement for a teaching site at the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership offices, 3159 Grant Ave., about five blocks southwest of Washington High.
Stephens said he will work with educational entities and community service offices, "where their mission and purpose would align very closely."
Stephens said some of the money allocated by the state would be used to lease computers. Teachers will also be hired, Stephens said.
The new teachers could include some of the Ogden program's current teachers, but all will have to go through Weber's rigorous hiring protocol, he said.
Stephens declined to pass judgement on the Ogden superintendent's decision to drop adult education, but did comment on the value of embracing the community.
"Currently, we are in an educational model of high-stakes testing and accountability," he said. "But, we must always be careful that we don't too narrowly define the role and mission of public education.
"Our public schools serve a broad, vital role in our society and in our communities. If we confine the purpose of our schools merely to student test scores in two or three areas, then we run the risk of significant unintended consequences."