The effort to keeps students in school through high school graduation will be starting earlier than ever, thanks to a grant to Graduation Matters Missoula from the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

Executive Regional Director for Missoula School District One Mark Thane said Monday that Graduation Matters Missoula applied for a special grant to support some early intervention activity.

"We recognize that if we're going to impact graduation rates in the long term, we really need to start dealing with students early on tn their educational career," Thane said. "One of the things we've decided to emphasize is developing safe and inclusive school environments."

School officials are beginning now as early as 5th grade to begin the process of encouraging graduation from high school.

"We've been working with the National Coalition Building Institute to beging working with our 5th graders in a program called Youth Building Bridges," Thane continued. "Essentially, we're developing resiliency skills and again those inclusive environments in our middle and elementary schools."

Thane says the program is designed to assist students all through their elementary, secondary and high school careers.

"Our ideas is that if we intervene on behalf of those students in elementary school, facilitate a smooth transition to middle school, and then continue the process through sixth grade,' Thane said,  "we can structure those kids for success in the middle school years, which seems to be a really critical period of time for our students both academically and socially."

The $5,000 has already been sent to the school district by the Office of Public Instruction and the program will be instituted in fifth-grade classrooms this fall.

Executive Regional Director for Missoula School District One Mark Thane