Following an April 17 discussion about the increase in student out-of-school suspensions in the 2022-23 school year, especially at the middle school, the Gasconade County Board of Education voted 6-0 …
Following an April 17 discussion about the increase in student out-of-school suspensions in the 2022-23 school year, especially at the middle school, the Gasconade County Board of Education voted 6-0 to implement an alternative learning school for the 2023-24 school year.
Superintendent Dr. Jeri Kay Hardy said the goal of the classroom is to keep students in a learning environment.
“When we give kids thee days of out-of-school suspension, they are not leaning and they are not learning at home,” Hardy said. “We would like an alternative learning classroom for the days they would have been suspended. They would be getting work done and food would be brought in.”
Hardy said the availability of the alternative learning classroom would depend on the offense.
“It could result in the School Resource Officer or a juvenile referral,” Hardy said. “This is not for students with violent behaviors or drug offenses.”
She said the ALS (alternative learning school) would only be available for students around the one to five-day suspension mark.
“We are trying to keep students in seats,” she said. “Students who would normally receive out-of-school suspension (OSS) would go to the alternative learning classroom during the school day. It is an alternative learning environment. More severe offenses would still result in an out-of-school suspension. They would still be getting instruction. It would allow us to continue their education and the school would be able to claim ADA (attendance) on them. It would result in quite a bit of savings, so it would pay for itself.”
Hardy estimated an additional $130,000 would be allocated to the district if they can manage to educate students in the alternative learning school instead of suspending them.
“It is a program that needs the right teacher in the seat,” Hardy said.
Middle School Principal Teresa Schulte said out-of-school suspension numbers increased in her building last year.
“I feel we definitely had a lot of students this year spend a lot of time out of school,” she said. “Parents say it is what they want. They are not learning at home. Instead of home for three to five days (sleeping in or watching TV) they will go to (alternative school),” Schulte said. “It curbs the appetite not to do it again versus staying home where they can stay up late, sleep in, and there usually isn’t an adult. Plus, it allows students to get their work done with the assistance of an adult.”
Schulte said she isn’t sure why OSS has increased in her building.
“We are giving consequences based on the Handbook,” she said. “It has heightened and the data supports that. We need to look at something and this would be a good step.”
Owensville High School Principal Kris Altemeyer said many times the students in OSS will not complete their work while they are away.
“Having them on campus during the day will be more beneficial than off doing whatever,” he said. “Kids in high school aged usually don’t have anyone at home and it is hard for the parents to get them to do anything.”
He used math homework as an example.
“Students will say they don’t understand the work and the parent at home doesn’t know either,” he said.
However, a certified teacher in the alternative learning classroom could help.
Board President Glenn Ely asked the administrators for a consensus.
“I am hearing uniformly that this is the best opposition for kids to continue to learn educationally as well as behaviorally,” Ely said.
Hardy said alternative learning school is a short-term fix.
“If a student is given several write-ups, it could be an alternative learning platform to get their credits and still be taught by a certified teacher,” she said. “Alternative learning school is not an OSS classroom or an ISS classroom. There are still stay-after-school infractions or Friday and Saturday morning detention.
“It will include students from both middle and high school,” Hardy said. “If students violate the rules of the alternative learning classroom, they will then get suspended from school.”
Schulte said the middle school has several kids with multiple write-ups or 10 write-ups or more for the same thing.
“What we are doing is not effective,” she said. “It’s not making an impact.”
Many students cannot attend night school for whatever reason and alternative school students can still use transportation.
The classroom will be located at the middle school at the end of the sixth-grade hallway, as the sixth-grade math department has downsized and there are additional classrooms available.
“It would be better at the middle school as opposed to the high school because it is the best-isolated space,” Hardy said. “It will be open to middle and high school students at the same time. Manageable.”
If students finish their classroom work early, they will receive more work.
Hardy said the middle school classroom location is isolated at the end of the hallway, and easily accessible to the back doors so students can be given an outdoor break. It is also close enough to the lunchroom that the noon meal can be easily delivered.
The board determined that they would like a certified teacher for the classroom so students can receive help with their work if needed. The open position is being advertised both internally and externally.
“This is an entirely new position,” Hardy said.
Schulte said kids need consequences for misbehavior.
“But I hear, ‘I can just go fishing or whatever,’” she said. “This could be a greater consequence.”