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Alternative school changes being considered

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POSTED: July 12, 2008 5:01 a.m.
The monthly meeting of board of education had a lengthy discussion on possibly revamping the structure of alternative school for middle school students.
From the current four and half hours to a proposed six-hour day, students will have the opportunity to learn in an alternative setting with the Ombudsman program then spend the other half of the day at STAR for physical education and life skills training.
Two groups will attend the programs at once then switch with the other group during lunch.
Changing the alternative school schedule was brought to the board out of a concern for all the extra time alternative school students have and what they choose to do the remainder of the day, according to Grove.
"Some of the community members have expressed to the board members about the middle school program only being a four and half hour program from Ombudsman," he said.
Besides an instructional block and physical education, the extended day would include meeting with counselors for training sessions in needed skills, such as peer pressure, goal setting, conflict resolution and anger management.
"We didn't just want to do time, we also wanted to have it meaningful," Grove said.
He said the additional training would "provide that support to make it better for them as they transition back to their referring school."
Six counselors will rotate to provide the specialized life skills training and two STAR teachers would be needed for the longer school day.
Board vice-chair, Carol Guyett, was concerned that an extended day would equate to "daycare," as a way to "keep them off the streets," when other children would still be in school.
Lily Baker, BoE chair, thought the instructional day would be put to good use and explained that there was "more to life skills than what you see on paper."
"Most of our children at the alternative school are there for obvious reasons and they go back and they still have those issues that have never been addressed," she said.
"So we're not babysitting," Baker said. "What we're trying to do is address the academics (and) the whole child."
A health education course, similar to the life skills sessions, is taught in a regular school setting, but "if they're at the alternative school then they're missing that altogether," according to Baker.
"I still think this way is better for children because it addresses more than just the academics," Guyett said.
Guyett said she could "see the benefit," but "not totally sold on this."
"I'm somewhat reluctant to offer it to offer it to one segment of our student population and not offer it to others," she said.
Guyett thought the board should consider extending the three-hour high school Ombudsman program for the same reasons.
Grove mentioned that high school students have been addressed through the addition of graduation coaches and the middle school program "provides us more flexibility," than the high school credit system and curriculum.
"If we expand their day, we won't be able to serve as many students," he explained.
Ombudsman currently allows for 95 contracted middle school slots and 105 high school students.
"We do have a number of students that have been with the program and who feel that's a more appropriate setting for them because it eliminates a lot of the distractions," Grove said.
He explained that the students find they can focus more.
"This is something we want to do this year while we look at the full picture, what direction we really want to go in for an alternative school program," Baker said.
The board also decided to redo the gym floorings for Snelson-Golden and Lewis Frasier middle schools.
Instead of carpeted floor, a synthetic, linoleum-type flooring will be built wall-to-wall to combat fraying and the quick wear of carpet.
Jason Rogers assured the board that the construction company is under strict instruction to have the gyms completed by August 1.
The board also listened to the overviews of the system-wide results from CRCT and GHSGT results.
"We are very appreciative of all they do," Baker said of the teachers.
She explained how many high school teachers volunteered their evenings, "time away from their family," to help tutor students for the test and "the hard work has paid off."
Board members reviewed slides showing how many schools had a 90 percent or higher passing rate for CRCT subject areas and as much as a 50 percent increase from last year in the students meeting the standards on the graduation tests.

 

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