Alternative school study

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— The Hayden and South Routt school districts have moved one step closer to developing a joint alternative school.

The two districts heard earlier this week that they received almost $20,000 to further address the possibility of providing something different for students who do not fit in traditional classroom settings.

The $19,925 Silver/Set Aside grant will allow the districts to hire a consultant to see if Hayden and South Routt should even proceed with plans to establish an alternative school.

Hayden Superintendent Scott Mader said that while a rough draft of a survey to determine student interest in attending an alternative school is complete, it will not be administered until a consultant was first hired.

The consultant would likely be an administrator of an alternative school, Mader said.

The survey outlines the significant differences between an alternative school and Hayden and Soroco high schools, such as alternative students' opportunity to participate and take responsibility for much of their own curriculum, instruction, learning and governance of the school.

Students in grades seven through 11 who indicate a strong interest in attending the alternative school will be specifically contacted for follow-up.

Some board members expressed concern about the possibility of misinterpreting the survey.

School Board President Kurt Frentress suggested the tallied number of students who indicate strong interest might not really reflect the actual number of students willing to try the alternative school.

"Couldn't this give a false indication of what kind of numbers would go to the school?" Frentress asked.

The districts should consider gathering the opinions of students who have already dropped out, board member Brian Hoza said, because they might have the most to gain from an alternative school.

"We need to survey the ones who aren't there," Hoza said.

Mader stressed the purpose of an alternative school is not to redirect students from Hayden and South Routt school districts to a more nontraditional setting.

"We wouldn't want to draw students out of the district that wouldn't normally drop out," Mader said.

Before the surveys are administered, the districts will hold a brief in-service to advise teachers on how to answer questions students might have, he added.

The districts would like to use the abandoned Twentymile Coal headquarters about 18 miles south of Hayden to house students who choose to attend the alternative school.

Although supporters of an alternative school want to see it implemented by next fall, the goal is no longer realistic, Mader said.

In addition to securing such particulars as transportation, staffing and enrollment size, grant money must be acquired, he said.

Grant cycles mandate when districts receive money, and Hayden and South Routt school districts are not in sync with those cycles, Hoza said.

That means the districts will not be able to apply for certain grants, such as energy impact funds, until next year.

"We thought maybe next fall, but it's a slow process," Mader said. "If we go slow, at least we will have made an informed decision."

To reach Danie Harrelson call 871-4208

or e-mail dharrelson@steamboatpilot.com

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