The St. Joseph School District’s Board of Education is discussing putting more emphasis on its alternative schooling programs.
The alternative high school program has been with the district for a few years. It focuses on providing a more stable environment and class structure for at-risk high school students.
The classes, which take place at the Webster Learning Center, originally targeted a broad group, focusing on students with social anxiety and those who didn’t fit very well into the system.
Now, the alternative schooling program, which is currently targeting upcoming sophomore and junior students, is focusing almost exclusively on drop-out prevention.
“It’s really an opportunity for students and a way for us to provide more support for students who are showing that the support that is given to every student at a traditional high school just may not be enough for them,” Jon Salanky, the principal at Webster, said. “To go along with all of the counseling wrap-around services that we’re able to provide here that may not be available at their school residence, we can also earn more credits in a school year with the way we have our classes and course schedule set up. Students who are only able to learn seven credits at a high school during a regular school year can earn eight here at Webster.”
Credit-deficient students as well as those with lower attendance may be contacted about the opportunity to attend Webster, which Salanky describes as a more tight-knit school with smaller class sizes and fewer transitions from class to class. A commons area allows students to socialize between classes, creating a more comfortable, relaxed vibe.
Updates to the school’s gymnasium will include recreational activities like ping pong and billiards, as well as a lounge area.
“The gym is hopefully going to be the coolest thing about Webster next year. We are completely repurposing that and getting away from a traditional P.E. structure,” Salanky said.
Currently, he and the district are looking at establishing community partnerships to have students participate in community-based training. They’re also partnering with United Way to explore career readiness opportunities as well.
Throughout all of the high school programs at Webster, the school served approximately 60 students last year, and Salanky is hoping to add 100 more in the coming year.
He also emphasized the importance of viewing these programs as an opportunity as opposed to a punishment. With certified teachers experienced in alternative-schooling practices, he hopes students and parents recognize they’re there to get everyone back on track to graduate with their peers.
“What we were trying before wasn’t working, so now it’s time to try something new, with more support and more interventions for students,” Salanky said.