BOCES to change structure of alternative school

JOHNSTOWN – The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Education Services has decided to keep the Alternative High School program open, but redesign it.

“That means we are going to hopefully save the program,” HFM?BOCES?Superintendent Patrick Michel said.

“It is going to be completely different,” he said.

The Alternative High School, at the HFM BOCES campus on Route 67, currently serves students in grades nine through 12 “whose needs are not met by our traditional secondary schools,” according to BOCES website. Many students who attend traditionally have had disciplinary or other social-interaction problems at their local schools.

Michel said several local school districts have withdrawn from participating in the program. He said having fewer students in the program increases the cost per student.

“The school districts wanted change and they got it,” Michel said. “The changes have led to several districts increasing their participation, which was really needed.”

Michel said the changes should begin the next school year.

“What we tried to do was redesign it for the 21st century rather than the 1980s,” Michel said.

BOCES previously said it was considering closing the school.

Several students at the Alternative High School on Monday talked about their concerns about the possible closure.

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

According to district documents, the revised program will be for grades seven through 12. Students and parents will meet with an “intake” team consisting of the principal, a guidance counselor, a student leader and a teacher where an achievement agenda will be created for each student, according to the new design outline.

This agenda will be used throughout the student’s career and will guide students and their parents throughout the student academic career. The intake team will meet with each parent four times a year to review student progress and adjust the program accordingly.

The students’ academic day will be scheduled in blocks and “semesterized” where strategic learning will be given to every student, the design outline stated.

Also as part of the redesign, every student will be given an iPad. Teachers and students will be trained on how to use the iPad.

This will eliminate the need for textbooks. Electives will be taken online, the outline stated.

Those students who excel in a core subject will be given the option of taking the course online or in school, the outline stated.

The district will run an extended-year program allowing students to achieve at their own pace.

The program will give students an opportunity to participate in an apprenticeship program or a college-in-the-high-school program through a partnership with Fulton-Montgomery Community College, the outline stated.

The class grading structure will be connected with student achievement agendas and students’ progress.

The district also plans to launch a mentoring program for the students to meet all the social and emotional needs of the children. The district plans to seek volunteers to mentor the students, the outline stated.

The district is still working on the details of the program, according to the document.

The district also plans to continue the Volunteer all Year Program, in which every 10 weeks, students choose a community project to help those in need, the outline stated.

The new plan follows the design of the alternative education programs in the Ithaca Central School District, the Monticello Central School District and the Orange Ulster BOCES.