Several meetings were conducted back in 2009-2010 about the possibility of Western School Corp. offering an alternative school. That idea later fizzled because of limited funding at the time.
However, there was still a need for such a program, according to superintendent Randy McCracken.
The Western School Board approved an alternative school pilot program at its July reorganization meeting to begin with the upcoming school year. The alternative school would be for at-risk and expelled students in grades 7-12. Sharon Fields will move from Western High School assistant principal to Western Alternative Education Supervisor/Instructor.
As the administrator, Fields can conduct home visits and participate in suspension reviews and expulsion meetings, communicating the alternative program to students and parents. She also will act as the alternative school liaison with the courts and local agencies.
The program is set up as a school within a school. The program would be housed in the current in-school suspension room, which is located across from the high school office. The school day would be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Bottom line, the overall benefit is changing the lives of those we serve,” McCracken said. “These kids belong in school, and we can make them feel that they can be successful.”
The program will have a target capacity of 15 students, with a maximum capacity of 20 students, he said.
The students who are recommended for the program by the administration through consultation with the student, parents, teachers and counselors are at-risk students who have demonstrated a broad lack of progression toward graduation. Out-of-school suspension is not a part of this program, McCracken said. However, students will automatically be referred into the program on the sixth day of out-of-school suspension, he said.
The student’s daily schedule in the program begins at 8 a.m. with a morning start and goal setting. At 8:25 a.m., the student learns potential FACS (Adult Roles). At 9:15 a.m., the student is educated with OdysseyWare course work, biology, health and individual/group counseling. At 11:15 a.m., the student will eat lunch. At 11:45 a.m., the student goes back to OdysseyWare course work, biology, health and individual/group counseling. At 1:40 p.m., the student goes through physical education. From 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., the student goes through service learning planning and clean-up.
Once entered in the program, the student will remain in the program through the school year as a default. However, there will be an opportunity to apply to leave the program and return to the regular education program at the completion of a semester, McCracken said. There also will be an opportunity to apply to stay in the program for additional time beyond the typical placement.
Students who are under in-school suspension will report to the same location as the alternative program. The ISS students and alternative education students will remain separate in the classroom.
The students in need of credit recovery will be scheduled into a Content Area Focused Education, or CAFE, study hall. This is a specialized study hall for mathematics and English. The students will be able to work on courses under the supervision of the CAFE instructional assistant, McCracken said.
Because of the differences in time for the alternative school, students will be responsible for their own transportation, he said. An expelled student’s parent or guardian will be responsible for their child’s transportation, he said.
The projected cost for the 2011-2012 school year, due to the reduction in the superintendent’s salary and benefits and from sharing a special education administrator with the Kokomo Area Special Education Cooperative, or KASEC, is $176,982.52, according to McCracken. This is a savings of $72,838.88. There also will be potential savings from providing homebound instruction through the alternative school.
McCracken also said that the corporation looks to have a reduction in paid athletic supervisors and to consolidate athletic transportation travel. Western also will receive the Alternative School Grant, which is $750 per student, and receive other various grants.