Alternative learning program to be implemented at HS

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Alta-Aurelia School Boards have discussed alternative academic programming during the last two monthly meetings. There seems to be a need, high school principal Tom Ryherd said, to provide an alternative learning program for students who "are not quite hitting the mark."

He told the board that all districts are required to have alternative programs so it is time to implement one in the Alta-Aurelia District.

The Alta board has been partners with Bridgewater Academy, a fully accredited virtual school, for the last couple years for the purpose of meeting all the needs of its students. Ryherd explained that the courses - which are available for third grade students to college students - are taught on line and correspondance with the Bridgewater teachers is done with the students and the teachers, keeping the students on track to complete course work including testing.

Ryherd said that Bridgewater has been used very little in those couple years at the Alta School but this year, he said, there are nearly 10 students that could benefit from the program.

He stressed to the board that not all students are going to have the option of taking the "easy way out" by taking part in the online course. Students will be selected by Ryherd and school counselor Belinda Shea for inclusion in the program.

He explained that A-A requires the completion of 54 credits to graduate. Learning does not come as easy for some students and without this option, some of those students may not receive a diploma and honestly, some may become so frustrated that they would choose to drop out.

With an alternative program in place, those students can be reached and become successful and receive a high school diploma; without the program some students may not earn a diploma.

Students will not be eligible to take part until the second semester of their junior year, if it looks like they may not be able to reach the required number of credits, and into their senior year. There have been cases where students move in to the district in their senior year and it would be difficult to earn 54 credits if the schools they are coming from do not have that same requirement.

"We want to make sure to push our students but if it gets to the point of no return, this program is an option. We all want to help produce kids that can give back to society. We need to dig in and support these kids."

Bridgewater classes can also be used for students that may for any reason be homebound for a portion of the school year and for credit recovery (if they have not passed a necessary class but need the credits to graduate.)

"This is an accredited program with certified teachers in every program," Ryherd added. "Students can communicate with the teachers and even though it is off-site, they do a good job of keeping us in the loop to make sure they are getting the work done."

The Bridgewater courses are self-guided and flexible for different types of students.

"Every individual is different. Not every one comes formt he same cookie cutter. It is our goal to give them the best education we possibly can. It's not right to say, 'you couldn't make it so good luck.' We have high standards here and we want to maintain those. This will be just for those who don't quite fit the mold. Why banish them because of something out of their control. We want to set them up for success if that's what they want." Ryherd said there are many of these alternative programs out there but Bridgewater is a good fit.

The board approved implementing the alternbative programming, stressing the administrative selection of participants.