Alternative ed program begins at Woodland

Special Education teacher, Ilyce Cronk helps a Woodland Regional High School student on a math assignment during an alternative after school education program Jan. 31 at Woodland High School in Beacon Falls. The program is aimed at helping students in the subjects of math, science, history, English and physical education. –RA ARCHIVE

Special Education teacher, Ilyce Cronk helps a Woodland Regional High School student on a math assignment during an alternative after school education program Jan. 31 at Woodland High School in Beacon Falls. The program is aimed at helping students in the subjects of math, science, history, English and physical education. –RA ARCHIVE


BEACON FALLS — Some students learn differently, and those who would thrive in an alternative education setting now have that chance.

Region 16 has launched its first alternative education program at Woodland Regional High School. The district serves Beacon Falls and Prospect.

The pilot program began last week with 11 juniors and seniors. The hope is to make it a full program in September.

Woodland Assistant Principal Dana Mulligan said the staff tries to put interventions into place before suggesting to parents an alternative placement. That intervention could range from support in the school to routine meetings.

“But for some students, regardless of the number of interventions that are put into place, the mold that everybody else seems to be able to fit and work in they just can’t have the same level of success,” Mulligan said. “It doesn’t mean they don’t have the intellect or the ability to be successful. It’s just four 80-minute blocks in a day — it’s not their best fit.”

Region 16 had been using an alternative school in Ansonia. When that closed a few years ago, it created a void for students who weren’t achieving success during the day, Mulligan said.

The district created its own program after staff documented a significant number of students who would benefit, she said.

For example, some students have issues with attendance, while others work better with smaller doses of instruction in a smaller class setting.

The Region 16 Board of Education in October approved the program for the second half of the 2012-13 school year. The cost is roughly $70,000.

Costs include transportation at about $36,000; an online curriculum program called Odysseyware, $5,500; an administrative stipend, $5,000; two support staff, $2,600; and three teachers, $20,900.

Priscilla Cretella, board chairwoman, said board members have been trying to determine how to pay for the program for two years.

She is happy school officials and administrators collaborated so the district could launch it, she said.

“We just don’t want to lose kids,” Cretella said.

The program runs from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday. It uses two classrooms and a computer lab.

For class work, students use an online curriculum program, which can be individualized to meet their needs. They also receive direct teacher instruction.

This program will allow some students to graduate on time and some to pick up credits to be on track to graduate in four years, said Woodland Dean of Students Ben Palladino, the program administrator.

A hope for the full program next year would be for students to have job placements during the day to earn credit and work experience, Palladino and Mulligan said.

The first day last Tuesday ran smoothly, both reported.

The students were excited to be there, Palladino said. Some even wanted to know since they are the first class, if their photo will be in the trophy case.

Part of alternative education is that students have to take ownership of it, Palladino said.

For instance, students have to establish a goal to achieve, such as perfect attendance for a month. If they succeed, students will get a reward, such as a sit-down dinner.

“They have to buy into it in order for it to be successful,” Palladino said.

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