Alternative ed set to start at Woodland

BEACON FALLS — After months of planning, Woodland Regional High School’s first onsite alternative education program is ready to begin.

The first day of classes for the program is scheduled for Jan. 24, Woodland Principal Arnold Frank told the Region 16 Board of Education Wednesday night.

“The kids are psyched they can’t wait,” Frank said.

Woodland has never had an onsite alternative education program. In the past, Woodland would send students to alternative programs in nearby school districts. However, those districts stopped accepting out-of-district students into their programs. Without the option of sending Woodland students to other programs, students who would be placed in the program received 10 hours of tutoring a week at home with the district paying for the costs.

Frank said 10 students are confirmed for the program.

“The kids that we’ve invited and their parents are thrilled about the opportunity,” Frank said.

The program, which is designed for students that struggle in a traditional classroom, was developed over the last half of last year by Woodland Assistant Principal Dana Mulligan and Frank. The program will take place after school from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., and students will receive instruction as well as counseling.

As part of the program, the district purchased a license for ODYSSEYWARE, software that offers core and elective courses online. The software can also be used for students who need to recover credits in order to graduate on time.

Frank told the board that a couple of the students in the program are seniors who are behind on credits and the program offers them a chance to graduate in June.

As the program was being developed some concerns were raised by regular education students at the school, including the program may cause a safety issue and it would take away time after school for students to meet with teachers.

Frank said he met with the school’s student government and has addressed the concerns.

The program will cost roughly $70,000 to run this semester. The largest part of the cost is $36,259 for transportation. The remaining costs are nearly $21,000 for three teachers, about $2,600 for two support staff, a $5,000 stipend for an administrative stipend, $3,500 for ODYSSEYWARE licenses, and $2,000 for ODYSSEYWARE training.

Part of the cost will be offset this year by money left over from roughly $25,000 in the budget to pay for the homebound tutoring. The remaining funds will be found in other accounts in the budget.

The program will be included in the budget for the 2013-14 school year.

The afterschool program is the first phase of the program. The board is also looking to place the students in a job or internship during the day before going to the program beginning with the 2013-14 school year. The idea is to provide the students with a life skill they can use after graduation.