So far this year, 42 students who were at risk of dropping out of school have received a high school diploma, thanks to the Evanston Township High School Alternative School.

The “Alt School,” as it is called, was created as an intervention for students at risk of not graduating due to being at least one semester behind in credits.  The school officially opened on the ETHS campus in the spring of 2015.  Dr. Dondelayo White, Director of Student Support Services at Evanston Township High School provided an update to the District 202 Board at its May 9 meeting.

The program utilizes two classroom teachers and offers a curriculum “designed to meet the functional and academic needs of the student population with which we serve,” said Dr. White. Instructional components include work study and work practicum, Wellness, Survey English 1-4 and Life Skills. AP and honors level classes are also offered and students receive guidance in post-secondary planning.  Classes are primarily computer-based, which allows students to work at their own pace. Many of the participants are dually enrolled in traditional classes and the Alt School. The program is currently at full capacity with 46 students. 

Those in the program “are highly intelligent, capable people,” said Dr. White.  Sometimes there are other circumstances that impede students’ progress and keep them from thriving in traditional classrooms.

An evening school component was added during the second semester of this school year. The program targeted students from the classes of 2014 and 2015 who dropped out. They meet on Tuesday and Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. and there are currently 11 students enrolled.  “Many of these students were significantly credit deficit, previously had attendance issues, behavioral problems, and extenuating circumstances that impeded their ability to complete high school. Providing an evening school session has allowed these students to return to high school to obtain their diploma,” said Dr. White.

The School is currently working on a solid reintegration plan, a formalized transition plan, and a student exit survey, said Dr. White. The transition plan will include the home-based Alt School teacher and counselor meeting with graduating students for the purpose of applying to at least one post-secondary institution and completing a FAFSA application. Also a summer project will allow the teachers to develop curriculum in the area of History.

District 202 Board member Mark Metz said the Alt School “provides opportunity for kids that would get far behind and didn’t see much hope.”

The program is “turning lives around,” said Doug Holt, Board member.

Board President Pat Savage-Williams commended Dr. White on the “incredible program” and asked if there were plans to further expand the Alt School.

We “would love” to see the program grow, said District 202 Superintendent Dr. Eric Witherspoon. “This is really significant work.”