New school year to see academic alternative programs at middle schools

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 12, 2005

This new school year will see substantial changes in the way Suffolk -most notably, the city’s four middle schools – run their academic alternative programs.

Students in the revamped academic programs will not be heading to Turlington Woods School. Instead, each middle school will have their self-contained programs along with their in-school staff.

Despite budget shortfalls and arguments dating back to May and June, the two alternative programs are set to be in full motion when the 2005-06 school year begins on Sept. 6.

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&uot;They should be ready and in place by the time students get there,&uot; said Kevin Alston, who has been heading up the new academic alternative programs for Suffolk Public Schools.

Classrooms are in the process of being set up at each middle school, along with the necessary power and wiring needed for computer access in the classrooms.

The first newly implemented program is meant to help keep students who would otherwise drop an entire grade because of one or two failed courses, closer to their proper grade, and closer to catching back up by passing the needed courses.

Following summer school, students still one course short of moving up a grade level will be able to take the one failed class in the fall semester of the new year while still taking the rest of the next grades’ classes in every other subject. In the second semester, the student will have the opportunity to &uot;double-up&uot; on the failed subject, thereby fully completing that year’s classes.

For example, say that a particular student, hereafter referred to as John, were to fail fifth grade history and English. John is able to pass History in the summer, but still must pass fifth-grade English in the fall semester of sixth grade. If John passes in the fall, he would then take two periods of English in the spring semester, and if successful, be fully on par heading into seventh grade.

The second new program being placed in Suffolk middle schools is similar in format to the current Education for Success program at John F. Kennedy Middle School. It is the alternative program for students who have failed three grade levels.

Students will take all core classes with the Middle School Academic Alternative Program Teacher at their proper middle school, with time built into each school day’s schedule for reading and math remediation.

Since these programs keep students in their middle schools, students will still take Physical Education as normal.

NovaNet technology will be an important tool in both programs.

Instruction for each pupil will be more individualized. An internet-based program, NovaNet has received high praise from teachers and administrators said Superin-tendent Dr. Milton R. Liverman at July’s School Board retreat.

Liverman said, &uot;NovaNet internet courses have been used in alternative education, but I was talking to principles and they were asking about if we could use this technology for Honors and AP courses that the schools can’t offer themselves.&uot;

Speaking during the July retreat about the new program for students attempting to make up one failed subject, Alston said, &uot;with this new alternative program and NovaNet capability, now it is possible for a student who fails two core subjects to catch up in one school year instead of being permanently demoted.&uot;

&uot;Right now, only one core subject can be made up in a summer…with the new program, the pupil can do one in the summer, and one in the fall semester,&uot; Alston said.

As of Thursday, Alston estimated that between 40 and 50 students would be involved in the two programs.

Shortening and simplifying bus routes is another important benefit of the new self-contained programs.

&uot;We won’t have to bus the students from their middle school and then to Turlington Woods.&uot; said Alston.

And for how these changes are better in the long-term, &uot;We are going to be able to expand the programs as needed,&uot; said Alston, &uot;and we can expand the Turlington Woods program now.&uot;