Alternative Schools Are Not What You Think - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Alternative Schools Are Not What You Think

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SALISBURY/DOVER-  When we hear the words "alternative school," certain images may come to mind such as kids who get into fights, or trouble making students at their home school. Unfortunately, this stereotype is not at all what we found at Delmarva area alternative high schools.

"Alternative schools are not bad schools. They are schools for people who struggled in other environments, yes. But we try to promote success differently," said Andrea Woodard, a guidance counselor in Kent County, Del.
 
After visiting the Kent County Intensive Learning Center in Dover and Choices Academy for Wicomico County Public Schools in Salisbury, Md., what WBOC found out about the students was a little surprising.

"We actually have students coming to us because they are asking for a smaller setting. Some students are not comfortable in a large school, and are looking for a smaller school setting, and we can offer that," said Choices Academy Principal Cristel Savage.  Eleventh grade student Theodrick Onley said, "I feel like more comfortable, like I can get things done without a whole bunch of teachers really rushing me."  

Savage said alternative schools historically have gotten a bad rap, but these schools are very important to public school districts.

"A lot of times students are maybe being unsuccessful in their home school, which maybe causes a disruption in that home school, which then disrupts the school," Savage said. 

William Buczynski, principal of Kent County's Intensive Learning Center, said. " You're looking at students who have not been successful in the traditional setting.  They've had issues with academics, issues, and behavior. and they get referred here for an opportunity in a smaller setting to be successful."

The smaller setting seems to be the key to helping students be successful. Each classroom has two adult teachers and six or seven students, said Darrell Jones, dean of students for ILC.

"We have the ability to take the time to see what's going on. Our classroom size is so much smaller. And as a result, a lot of our kids find success here," Jones said.   Students, like 12th grader Tianniah Chelf, said, "I get distracted easily sometimes and when I do get distracted I'm not going to do my work anymore. To me honestly it's better because it's not a lot of people

Jones wants everyone to know that their kids are very smart. And alternative school can help them realize it.

"A lot of our students come here thinking they don't have a talent," he said. "It's our job to help them discover what that talent is. If it's hands on, if it's speaking, you see what I'm saying? If it's a group assignment, we have to help them tap into that."

Unlike what many people think, alternative schools are not meant for punishment, according to Principal Savage.

"You're not going to walk through the Choices Academy door, and we're going to be like mean people," Savage said. "That's not who we are. We're like, 'Hello, how are you. How can we help you? What do you need from us to be successful?'"

For those who may have behavior or emotional issues, there are even social workers and school psychologist on staff.

"We have an opportunity to get deep into the lives to support the student where they are so that we can start to see success differently," said Woodard.

Whether it's the Choices Academy in Salisbury, or the Kent County Intensive Learning Center in Dover, what we found is that these alternative schools are needed to give these students a second chance to win.

"We don't know what God has planned for these kids when they leave here but we know that if they don't finish, they are going to be in a much tougher situation than if they finished," Jones said.            

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