BOCES Students: Keep alternative school open

JOHNSTOWN – On Monday, students at the HFM BOCES Alternative High School discussed their concerns about the possible closure of the school.

Angela Webster of Oppenheim, a student at the alternative school, said if the school is eliminated, many students who have trouble in the traditional high school setting could lose their chance to earn a diploma.

Speaking to fellow students Monday in a meeting at the Alternative High School, Webster said the students need to get the word out about how closing the school would hurt them.

“How many of you, honestly, if this school were to close, would drop out?” Webster asked, seeing a majority of the roughly 20 students raise their hands. “That right there proves how much we need this place.”

The Alternative High School, at the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES campus on Route 67, is a program serving students in grades nine through 12 “whose needs are not met by our traditional secondary schools,” according to the HFM BOCES website.

District officials are discussing whether to close the program or reorganize funding to the school.

Many students who attend have had disciplinary or other social-interaction problems at their local schools.

Webster said many students need the alternative school and may not be able to graduate in their original school.

“We cannot just let them say, ‘OK, those kids are nothing but a bunch of troublemakers,’ because I’ve heard it come out of so many mouths,” Webster said. “…We need to graduate, don’t we?”

Eugene Skinner, a student at the alternative school, was shocked when he first heard about the closure.

“I actually like this [school] better than my home school,” said Skinner, who originally attended Gloversville High School.

Skinner said he enjoys the “hands on” learning he gets at the alternative school.

“In my home school, the teachers don’t help you, but here they will help you,” he said.

“I think it is wonderful that they are standing up for this program,” HFM BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel said Monday. “It says a lot about the kids and what they think about the alternative program.”

Michel said his staff and school administrators will meet this afternoon to make a final decision about the school’s fate.