Greenwood plans alternative academy

A new program next school year will give extra help to Greenwood Community High School students who are struggling in their core classes and offer online courses for others who want to learn languages or take courses not offered at the school.

One wing of the high school that is currently used for health classrooms will be remodeled into a new learning center with two classrooms, a café and study area for students. Two existing classrooms will be expanded into one large classroom, and the hallway will be changed into a study area.

Tearing down the wall between the two classrooms should cost less than $5,000 and will be paid for from the district’s capital projects fund, which typically pays for new equipment and maintenance, Superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.

A final cost for the learning center has not been determined, but the highest cost would be hiring an aide or program supervisor for the academy, DeKoninck said.

Officials also want to purchase 30 touch-screen tablets for the program, paid for through the capital projects fund, so students do not have to stay in one classroom. Students could then work on online classes in the cafe or take their work with them to a teacher for additional assistance, Greenwood Community High School principal Todd Garrison said.

Officials are looking for grants and sponsorships to cover the bulk of the learning center’s expenses, Garrison said. The learning center and academy will be a first for the school district and should be in place before next school year, Garrison said. Remodeling the school will take place this summer, he said.

The majority of the learning center will house Woodmen Academy, where students can spend half of their day getting one-on-one help in social studies, science, language arts or mathematics, Garrison said.

Twenty to 30 sophomores, juniors and seniors who are at-risk for dropping out will be invited to the academy, Garrison said. Students will still attend their regular high school classes for electives after their half-day in the academy, he said.

The academy does not have a set criteria for who will be best-suited for the program, but teachers will look at mostly upperclassmen. After at least one year in the academy, students could return to the traditional school schedule if their grades improve, Garrison said. The half-day schedule also could allow students to job shadow.

Instead of having students move from classroom to classroom, teachers will come to them, Garrison said. Teachers will blend traditional classroom instruction with online work to help students understand lessons. Students can work independently but still have a teacher for extra one-on-one help, he said.

Students also can make up classes they may have failed, Garrison said.

But the center isn’t only for students who are struggling, Garrison said. Honors students who want to take a higher-level math course that isn’t offered can go to the center to take that or other higher-level courses online, he said.

The high school also will offer online classes for students who are homebound, for situations such as a long-term medical issue or new mothers, Garrison said. The course list has not been determined, but it will be a blend of courses not offered at the high school, such as a foreign language option or a unique trade or skill that students can use after they graduate.

The district will look at using couches, desks or chairs that are in other schools or in storage to keep costs down, DeKoninck said. If new furniture or vending machines need to be purchased, the money will come from the capital projects fund, DeKoninck said.