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Diplomas were awarded to 49 students who met high school graduation requirements through Evanston Township High School’s Alt School last year. Forty-two students earned the ETHS diploma at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, and an additional seven attended the Alt School Evening Program and graduated through summer school. This brings the total of diplomas awarded in the program’s short three-year history to 122. Taya Kinzie, Associate Principal of Student Affairs, and Marcus Campbell, Principal, presented the annual update on the Alt School at the Dec. 17 meeting of the District 202 School Board.
Currently, there are 44 students attending the day sessions and nine students attending evening school for a total of 53 students. Out of the 44 students enrolled during the day session, six students are in the class of 2018 and 27 students are in the class of 2019. The nine students attending the evening program are in the classes of 2017, 2018 and 2020.
Since the inception of the Alt School Program in January 2015, a total of 201 students have been placed in the program.
“The Alt(ernative) School was implemented to address our student population that is experiencing significant academic, social/emotional and attendance difficulties in the traditional school setting,” said Ms. Kinzie. Students who qualify have experienced issues such as chronic truancy, a shortage of credits or other issues leading to lack of success. Some are GED Eligible. A grade-level support team can refer students, and students can also self-refer.
The Alt School runs a morning and an afternoon session daily as well as an evening school two times per week. Learning is supported by APEX which combines online and instructional courses. A wide range of credits are offered including Advanced Placement (AP) and general courses in English, social studies, math and science. Electives and CTE Electives are also offered. Students can earn 16 credits per school year.
“We shift classes with student needs,” said Ms. Kinzie. Student learning is mainly self-directed, so students can make up classwork while also earning additional credits toward graduation.
The goal of the program is reintegration back into the mainstream classes at ETHS. Students who wish to do so must complete at least two semesters of improved attendance, reduced disciplinary infractions, have no major disciplinary infractions, earn minimum numbers of credits per semester and be enrolled dually in the Alt and mainstream classes.
Post high school planning is also done in the Alt School. Students complete college application(s) and have access to ETHS’s College and Career Center. They can also receive guidance on a gap year, get help with job placement and learn about the military.
Ms. Kinzie read some of the feedback provided by students who have attended the Alt School program and their parents. One parent labeled the school a “lifesaver” for her son who had withdrawn from ETHS. A student said that the school had “given me something to dream about.”
Board Member Jonathan Baum asked if there were any lessons learned in the Alt School that would translate to mainstream.
“Dr. Dondelayo White, director of student services has her office in the Alt School,” said Ms. Kinzie. “Sometimes we’ve found we need to find ways to make the big school seem smaller. I think that has led to success.”
Board President Pat Savage Williams asked if there were plans to expand the program. “There is a need. We have a waiting list,” said Ms. Kinzie.