A new program to help students catch up or even work ahead has been around for only a month, but Greenwood Community High School already wants it to expand.
Greenwood Connections lets 28 students work at their own pace in their own space at the high school every morning. In the afternoon, students either have elective courses or head to Central Nine Career Center for vocational classes in fields such as cosmetology, criminal justice and culinary arts.
Students had to be recommended for the program by teachers and advisers and were picked because they could thrive with individual attention where they can work at their own pace, Principal Todd Garrison said.
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Each student is given a computer to take the online classes. Teachers are available for one-on-one help if students have questions.
The program has been so popular that more students want in, Garrison said. The school has started a wait list in case students graduate from the program early.
In the next few years, Garrison hopes to find a way to have both morning and afternoon sections of the program.
Students in the program said they like that they can jump ahead in a certain subject that they’re interested in, instead of taking a semester to work through an entire class.
“After about two weeks in, I was already 30 percent through my literature class,” junior Dane Miller said.
After getting so far ahead in his English class, Miller was able to move on to one of his four other subjects, including another English course he needed to make up. If students miss a school day, they can still have access to their homework online.
“You can do (the program) at home, and I really love that. I already passed one class when I was sick at home,” senior Gema Espinoza said.
Greenwood Connections is housed in a former health classroom, which was expanded during the summer. Students can use high-top tables, couches, chairs or regular desks. They stay in the same classroom for the morning while working on their core subjects.
“It was really more of a drag for me to switch and walk around (between classes),” Miller said. “I like this because it’s relaxing, and you can chill.”
No chalkboards are on the walls, and teachers don’t teach a class all at once. Instead, smaller groups of students can meet with a teacher, or they can meet one-on-one to get a better understanding of the material.
“In this program, I actually do get the help that I need,” Espinoza said.
Students can learn in the best way for them, including in groups or individually. Miller said he processes the curriculum better when he figures it out on his own, instead of learning in a classroom setting.
“I learn things better if I read them and think about them and do my own thing with them instead of a teacher writing it down and me just copying it down,” Miller said.
Students can work with teachers on what assignments they should do. For example, in English class, instead of doing the standard tests or essays, students can do art projects to show they understand the material, English teacher Ashley Smithey said.
Some students joined the program because they needed to make up classes, but others are there to work ahead.
Senior Haley Hawver only needed four more classes before she could qualify for graduation, which meant she could be done by the end of this semester. But the high school doesn’t offer a midyear graduation program, so she joined Greenwood Connections.
“If I got everything done, I would only have to come maybe once or twice a week,” Hawver said. “At the rate I’m going, I’m already done with the first semester.”
Next semester, she will need to take only trigonometry and finish an internship through Central Nine. But other than that, she can start working as a nursing assistant in January and walk with her graduating class in May, she said.
“If we were in normal classes, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am right now,” Hawver said.