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Life Without High School

October 24, 1991|MICHAEL ARKUSH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Homecoming, homework and hall passes--the annual ritual called high school is well under way.

For most San Fernando Valley teen-agers, that means another autumn of savoring their fleeting adolescence while slowly advancing toward adulthood. The next stop: Graduation.

But not for everybody. Once again, thousands of students have dropped out of high school. In 1989-90, 5,000 out of 38,000 Valley students--or 14%--quit school. Districtwide, the rate was 16%.

The Valley is no aberration; throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District, the dropout problem is a priority concern.

The district devotes 100 people and $7.5 million annually to combat this problem. But it's not enough.

"We have to get started earlier," said Barry Mostovoy, a district administrator who works on dropout prevention programs, of which there are about half a dozen. "We need more counselors in schools to talk to students. We need them in elementary schools."

According to Mostovoy, the reasons teen-agers quit school haven't changed much in recent years: poor grades, the lack of family support, pregnancy.

Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda had the highest dropout rate of any Valley school in the 1989-90 academic year, the period of the most recently released official figures. That year, 274 youngsters--22% of the 1,227-member student body--quit school, according to district figures.

Here are the stories of three students who dropped out of Cleveland High:

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