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Alternative education in Liberty County
School notes
interin sup Harley Grove
Harley Grove
By Harley Grove
For the Liberty County School District

Alternative education programs are to assist students experiencing disciplinary or academic problems in the traditional school or who are at-risk for not completing high school.
The programs utilized for alternative education by the Liberty County Board of Education include in-school suspension, Student Transition and Recovery (STAR) Program and Ombudsman Educational Services.
In-school suspension is used at the school level to address many types of misbehavior. Students are assigned a specific number of days, depending on the offense, and work on assignments from their classes.
The program serves students in a classroom in the school where they are supervised and somewhat isolated from one another so they may work on assignments without distractions. This level of intervention resolves most routine issues that occur when students fail to adhere to behavior expectations or rules identified in the student code of conduct.
STAR serves students ages 12-16, but the Liberty County program has expanded to include elementary students as young as 7. The program’s four instructors serve the students in their traditional school and support the efforts of the school to correct the students’ behavior or academics.
Additionally, students assigned to STAR, either by court referral or parent/administrator agreement, report for physical training at 6:30 each morning, for tutoring after school and for Saturday community service.  Elementary students usually do not participate in the entire program, but the instructors go to their schools to work with them.
Community service projects include working with Liberty Regional Medical Center and the United Way to recycle and clean up areas. The projects are designed to help students become better citizens and give them a sense of self-worth, respect for others and responsibility.
Ombudsman serves middle and high school students. This program, which is accredited through the same agencies that accredit our schools, serves students who have been referred by a disciplinary tribunal, have been adjudicated or have returned from a detention center, or have enrolled from another school where the student was in an alternative setting but did not complete the assignment.
Periodically voluntary placements are available to allow students who are not being successful academically to enroll. Acceptance to Ombudsman is determined after an intake interview with the student and parent.
Students must agree to follow all program regulations, to maintain good behavior, to follow the code of conduct, to work consistently and to attend regularly. Bus transportation is provided for students who live more than one and a half miles from an Ombudsman center. 
Students who successfully fulfill their alternative assignments, either semester or year, are eligible to return to their schools at the beginning of the next semester if they passed all classes, maintained appropriate discipline and had good attendance.
The focus of the program is on academics based on standards and objectives that correlate with state requirements. Students participate in all required tests. The academic program is individualized and designed to provide academic skill development in areas of weakness that students may have and on content specific standards.
There is a student-teacher ratio of 6-1 so students receive intensive individualized assistance. The students work on academics on computer-based programs. Instructors supplement these programs with writing and skills development resources.
Although requirements are similar at both middle and high school programs, the school day differs. The original design of the program, was to schedule high school students for three hours each day and middle school students for four hours. Beginning this school year, the Liberty BoE revised the middle school program to full school days.
Middle students attend class daily for three hours at Ombudsman and three hours at the STAR/Ombudsman facility with a lunch period between sessions. The program provides two sessions which can serve approximately 30 students per session. With one Ombudsman site dedicated to middle schoolers and one site serving both middle and high school students, the program is able to enroll up to 90 students.
High school students attend classes three hours a day to provide some flexible scheduling to foster better achievement and attendance. One site is dedicated to just high school enrollment. It and the other allow a maximum of 105 high school enrolment. Although the focus is on academic classes, some electives and career/technical classes cannot be offered by the Ombudsman Program. The program is designed to allow students to complete assignments that will lead to earning course credit. Students earn credits toward diploma requirements and graduation in a manner similar to that followed at the traditional high school.  Students may earn either an Ombudsman diploma or a diploma for the high school from which the student is referred.
The Liberty County program has had 30-35 students graduate annually with diplomas.
Ombudsman also provides a tuition-based summer school program for credit recovery.
Ombudsman is hosting an open house on Tuesday, March 24, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Liberty Central 2 location, 103 Gen. Screven Way, Suite L in the Food Lion shopping plaza.  The public is invited to see the center, speak with staff and students, and obtain additional information. Individuals may also contact me at the Liberty County Board of Education by calling 876-5953 for additional information.
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