BARSTOW • Steven Blundell, 18, had attended Barstow High School and Central High School, but found success when he enrolled in the school district's independent study program.

There are fewer distractions in independent study, and students can review a lesson as many times as they need to, he said. Blundell started the program at the beginning of the school year. He plans to participate in Central High School's graduation at the end of the year.

"I learn more than I do at the regular school," he said.

The number of students enrolled in independent study this year has increased by almost double from last year, said Central High School Principal Jim Davis. Officials are expecting more students to enroll before the year is out. If that happens, the district plans to add afternoon and early evening hours to meet the demand.

"There are a lot coming back from Mojave River Academy, Excelsior and Silver Valley Unified School District," Davis said. "For some it's a convenience factor. It fits better with their schedules."

Barstow Unified School District's independent study program accommodates students from grade seven to grade 12. Four teachers are currently involved in the program and teach up to 35 students each.

According to Barstow Unified School District Superintendent Susan Levine, one of the reasons BUSD students have enrolled in charter schools is because the independent study program was full. Increasing the program will decrease the school district's drop out rate as well.

Brenda Banks, a high school instructor with the program, said the number of students has quadrupled in the three years she's been with the independent study program. Students often take four to 10 classes a day, putting in more than six hours of work, Banks said. They are also able to take college classes at the same time.

"ISP used to be (for) kids who had nowhere else to go," she said. "But (now) a lot of them are academically gifted."

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By the numbers
75 to 90 • students enrolled in Barstow Unified School District's independent study program last year
125 • students currently enrolled in the independent study program
20 to 25 • anticipated increase in independent study students this year

Source: Jim Davis, principal Central High School