When short on course credits, how do you graduate? - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

When short on course credits, how do you graduate?

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- Hamilton County Schools are into their seventh week of the new academic year.

But Ashley Holcomb, 17, hasn't started yet. She's zoned to attend Central High School.

"My being slow and everything shouldn't really matter," she says. "It shouldn't put me in a situation like this."

Ashley and her mother left Etowah over the summer to live with her aunt, Tonya McBryar.

"I didn't get the impression they (Central) would admit her at all," Ms. McBryar says.

"They said, quote the word, 'Ashley is so far behind they would not benefit from coming to our school'."

Ms. McBryar concedes that Ashley has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and has learning difficulties.

But the numbers work against her, too.

Hamilton County requires students earn 28 credits to graduate high school. Ashley has earned only 11 or 12 in her freshman and sophomore years. She'll turn 18 before the end of her junior year.

"No one has ever said she wasn't welcome," Central Principal Finley King tells Channel 3 off camera. "We want to put students in the best position to succeed. And the fact is, if they still have a way to go to graduate by the time they turn 18, a lot of them get discouraged and drop out."

Mr. King recommends Ashley attend Hamilton County High School, a 'second option' high school for students who've run into difficulties fitting in to a traditional learning environment.

Hamilton County requires only 23 credits for graduation; the statewide standard. Students may remain through their 21st birthdays, provided they're already into their final semester.

"From what I've read, I think it's a great school," Ms. McBryar says. "But transportation. Why not provide transportation?"

"Ashley doesn't drive. She could take the bus to Central. Hamilton County High School is 7 miles farther."

"We couldn't afford to bus our students," Principal Gary Kuehn says. "We draw from all over the District."

Ms. McBryar insists her niece will finish whatever and wherever she starts.

"As long as she is in my home, it's not an option to drop out."

Ashley plans to enroll at Central Wednesday.

"We'll work with her and determine what coursework she needs to be successful," Mr. King says.

Ashley promises, she won't need any prodding.

"I just want them to know I'm inspired," she says. "I'm trying to get things done. I'm trying to get my grades good. I' m not stopping."

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