Tehachapi and Ridgecrest continuation schools were two of 25 campuses named Monday as a 2012 Model Continuation High School by the California Department of Education.

Monroe Continuation High School, Mesquite Continuation High School and others were honored for their programs to help struggling students stay in school.

“The schools we are recognizing today have gone the extra mile to help kids get the education they deserve and need to succeed in life and careers,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a statement.

Monroe, in Tehachapi Unified School District, has about 160 students. Students must do community service to graduate, helping elementary school students with math, for example, district officials said. Students can take part in winter formal, student government and other programs typically seen in regular high schools. The school celebrates when students graduate.

Mesquite, in the Sierra Sands Unified School District, has about 140 students. Students there can take college coursework while earning credits to graduate high school. The campus houses Cal-SAFE, a child care program that offers parenting classes to students who are pregnant and minor parents.

Traditionally, continuation high schools cater to students at risk of not graduating, and offer students an alternative high school diploma program that focuses on school-to-career education, individualized instruction, intensive guidance and counseling and flexible school schedules.

More than 69,000 students attended the state’s 504 continuation high schools in the 2010–11 school year.

Kern High School District 's board Monday night discussed briefly in moving with a "permissive law" allowing students to use career technical education courses toward graduation requirements in the place of a fine arts or foreign language course.

The board will vote in March on implementing Assembly Bill 1330 starting next school year, where students would gain flexibility to complete graduation requirements. On the other hand, students who choose the career tech route could lose exposure to arts and culture classes.

Superintendent Don Carter said various school districts in California are viewing the bill as something that provides students with more options.

In other business, the board ratified the 2011-2013 collective bargaining agreement with the Kern High School Teachers Association. The association's president said teachers were satisfied with the agreement.

Leaders from high school agriculture programs, including local ones, are banking on selling thousands of special California license plate to keep programs alive during budget cuts.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles will issue the special plates when 7,500 pledge to purchase them, and sales will largely benefit agriculture education in the state.

Advisers from local Future Farmers of America programs have sold hundreds, but more need to be sold to fund one of the largest high school programs in the United States, officials said. The programs are at risk of being drastically cut in the governor's proposed budget, said Craig Davidson, Highland High's FFA adviser.

"The only way we can survive this is if we promote the specialized agriculture license plates," Davidson said. "We are in an agriculture community and we must sell more."

The goal is to sell 7,500 plates by April 6.

The plates -- available for registered cars, trucks, trailers and motorcycles -- incorporate a design that includes a sunrise over a fertile green field, with the words, "Food, Fiber, Fuel, Flora" highlighted. "Agriculture" runs along the bottom of the plate.

The cost is $50 to order the special plates and $40 per year to renew. For personalized plates, the cost is $98 to order and $70 a year to renew.

For more information, go to www.CalAgPlate.com.

Independence High School has received a $5,000

PG&E Bright Ideas

grant to complete a "Go Beyond Solar" project to study solar energy in schools in the Kern High School District.

Independence special education teacher Kevin Crosby received a check Monday. He leads the Falcon Autistic Solar Team, which teaches how solar energy works.

Applications for the PG&E grants are being accepted through March 20 for educational solar projects, youth energy and environmental programs, renewable energy, science-related field trips and professional development programs.

More information: www.pge.com/community.

High school and college students from Bakersfield delivered backpacks, books and other school supplies to children in Ensenada , Mexico, recently as part of a Bakersfield West Rotary Club project.

The group, in an international humanitarian interact trip from Jan. 13 to 16, also donated jackets, crayons, five cases of paper and pens to about 350 students at La Escuela de la Revolucion. Other donations included Spanish-English dictionaries, a computer and a printer courtesy of Michele Brown of East Rotary.

-- Jorge Barrientos, Californian staff

For more education news, go to The Californian's education blog, The Grade, at www.bakersfield.com/ thegrade or follow The Grade's Twitter at twitter.com/TBCTheGrade.