An alternative education

Hayden, South Routt schools discuss how to save students who struggle

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— Two Routt County school districts are discussing a joint effort to create an alternative school for students who struggle in traditional school settings.

Officials from the Hayden and Soroco school districts are in the preliminary stages of setting up an alternative school that would serve students who either cannot or choose not to attend school.

Such schools have grown in stature in the last decade and have become one of the primary dropout recovery and prevention tools employed by public schools.

"We both are on the same page philosophically," Hayden Superintendent Scott Mader said of the two districts. "Neither one of us has an alternative school, and both of us feel we have students who will attend one."

Officials are hopeful to implement the school by the fall of 2002. It will be geared toward students who are at risk of dropping out and recovering students who may have already left school.

Discussion about an alternative school started this past spring. Initial discussions were held between school officials from Hayden, Soroco, Steamboat Springs and Moffat County.

At this point, Steamboat Springs and Moffat County officials have backed away from participating.

"They have been invited to continue," Mader said. "But they are going their own way or doing something different."

Hayden and Soroco officials are working with a local coal company regarding a potential facility for the school.

School officials have approached Twentymile Coal Co. about letting the districts use one of the company's vacant buildings as a facility.

"It is an old abandoned building the mine used for offices," Mader said. "It is a good location because it is about as midway as you can possibly get between the two districts."

Along with talking to the mine, the two districts are working out ways they can fund the school.

One idea is for a position that is hired by Northwest Board of Cooperative Educational Services to oversee the proposed school. BOCES provides the two school districts a day treatment teacher, who works with at-risk students who may drop out, Mader said.

"At this time, the position is vacant," he said. "We are thinking this person could be the head teacher of the school. We are interested in sharing the funding equally."

In the meantime, the two districts are interested in forming an advisory committee.

The committee will consist of school administration and school board members from both districts, along with officials from the mine. The committee would provide guidance for philosophy, entrance policies, staffing and operating procedures for the school.Mader said he is scheduling a meeting for mid-July where school officials will talk with representatives of the mine.

"We have moved along swiftly," Mader said. "This is a need for both districts. We both have students we should not be losing. With an alternative school, we feel we can meet the needs of some students our system presently does not

accommodate."

"This might be a year away, but we are on our way to making it a reality."

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