Future of Region 16 alternative program to be determined

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

PROSPECT — When Region 16’s second marking period ends in late January, so too will Woodland Regional High School’s alternative education program. When the program will return and in what form are to be determined.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said the region is ending the program due to low enrollment. He said there are four students enrolled in the program and only three are active.

“We just don’t have the demand for it right now,” Yamin said.

Students in the program have been remote learning at home this school year due to COVID-19, Yamin said. The students will continue to distance learn the rest of the school year.

Yamin said officials will review the program when putting together the 2021-22 budget for the region, which is composed of Beacon Falls and Prospect.

With the advent of distance learning, Yamin said it’s possible the program could be run virtually. He added the foundation of the program is in place, so officials could start it up again immediately.

“If we need it, we can start it at any time,” he said.

The alternative program, which is designed for high school students who may not perform well in a traditional classroom setting, started in January 2013 after school at Woodland. Before then, Woodland students attended alternative programs in nearby districts. After those districts stopped accepting out-of-district students into their programs, Region 16 provided tutors for students at home.

The alternative program, called Helping All Woodland Kids Succeed or H.A.W.K.S., evolved over the years.

In 2018, changes to state requirements that focused on expelled students mandated students in alternative programs receive a comparable amount of instructional hours to students in traditional school settings. School officials moved the alternative program to the annex at the district office on Coer Road and expanded the program’s hours.

Yamin said there are no students in the program this year that have been expelled.

There were 11 students in the program the first year and 15 the second, but enrollment has been dwindling lately. Yamin said there were six or seven students in the program last year.

“Our numbers have been low for the past two years,” Yamin said.

Officials anticipate some savings from ending the program for at least the rest of the year, though exactly how much was unclear last week.

There is about $125,000 allocated in this year’s budget for the program, Director of Finance and Business Operations Anthony DiLeone said. The budget includes about $48,000 for teachers, a $10,000 stipend for an administrator to oversee the program, $21,000 for paraprofessionals, and $40,000 for transportation.

DiLeone said the district hasn’t spent money on transportation for the program, since the students have been distance learning. He said officials are still factoring how much the region will save by canceling program.