The school district’s assessment and accountability coordinator, Mary Slaughter, who also oversees guidance counseling, Title IV and community education, presented board members with information about two new programs being added to the school system: Hope Academy and Twilight Knight School. Both programs, including the school district’s 180 program, will be housed on the Walker County Center of Technology campus.
The 180 program — an intervention program for at-risk students — began in 2012 and replaced the system’s alternative school for students prone to discipline problems. Year-long placement students, she said, will be removed and housed at the 180 facility where they will stay.
Slaughter mentioned there will be two different groups of students (those who are year-long placement students and then those who are two or more credits behind) and then those students who will attend Hope Academy. Hope Academy is designed for students who are falling behind and may not be well acclimated at their home school, are bullied or may need to be in a smaller setting with more one-on-one instruction from teachers.
“Once those students are caught up credit-wise, they will transition back to their home school and be in the regular flow with the rest of the students. Those students will be allowed to continue to participate in WCCT, because they’re not there because they’re being punished, they are there to catch up,” Slaughter said. “They will also be allowed to attend activities, ball games and things of that nature. However, your year-long placement students will not because, remember, you sent them there for a reason, and they cannot participate.”
Hope Academy will start at 8 a.m. and end at 3 p.m., the same as all regular county schools. Although HA students will be housed with 180 students, Slaughter said both sets will be completely separated by having different lunches, separate entrances into the building and having HA students wearing royal blue shirts with jeans. Transportation will not be provided to the HA, but students can ride the vocational bus in the mornings and afternoons to the WCCT campus for classes at HA.
Students will be on a six-period schedule, where classes will be approximately an hour. Slaughter said 90-minute classes may have the opportunity to create discipline problems with a smaller group setting and one-on-one instruction. Class assignments will be provided by their home school teachers, but students will complete the assignments through a specific software program and receive further instruction if needed from HA teachers.
The Twilight Knight School will be for students who can’t make it to their regular home schools during the day because of different circumstances, such as having to work to support themselves or their family or if a female student has a baby and can’t find a babysitter to watch their child(ren) during the day. This school will be open from 4 until 7 p.m. for those students.
“With Individualized Learning Plans, which is an ILP [and that] is what we’re going to call it, we can set the student’s schedule up where if they have to work in the day, they will go ahead and work in the day and they can come to school at night and get their course credits. They will have a graduation coach who will monitor their work schedule, who will keep up with their credits and who will make sure that they’re in their proper courses so that they can graduate on time,” Slaughter said. “ ... We’re not going to let kids stay home to sleep just to go to the night school; they have to have a need for it.”
Transportation is not provided for students to attend Twilight Knight School nor will lunches be served, but students will be able to bring a snack because they will be given two, 10-minute breaks. Students will be able to work on only one credit at a time while attending TKS. Slaughter said each credit must be completed and mastered with a 70 percent average. If not, students will have to backtrack and either take those tests or complete the standards they missed, plug in their scores and average it until they reach the 70 percent passing rate.
Students will be able to work at their own pace; however, there is a deadline, meaning students cannot take the entire school year to complete one credit. TKS teachers will use a new software program that will allow them to monitor the students’ computers from the teacher’s computer, which will help the teachers keep those students on track. The same goes for the TKS students as it does for the HA students, meaning once TKS students get caught up in their studies, they may also return to their regular home school setting.
Slaughter also mentioned Dusk to Dawn students, which are students who will attend their home schools from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. then go to the TKS from 4 until 7 p.m. in order to catch up on their studies if they’re too far behind, but those students will not have that particular set schedule all year long.
Students will continue to be tied into their home schools; they must also seek counseling with their graduation coach while attending the new programs. Currently, there are 12 to 15 students signed up to attend Hope Academy and 12 to 15 students signed up for the Twilight Knight School. There are also between four to six adolescents who will be Dusk to Dawn students.
The question was asked about including students from the Jasper City Schools district, but Slaughter said it’s only open to students who are between the ages of 16 to 21 and are enrolled in the Walker County School System in order to accommodate them sufficiently. Connie Shubert, who is the county schools’ director of federal programs, said they want to start out small in number in case any negative scenarios occur within the two programs and possibly expand later on.
“We’re excited about it ... There is still more work to do, but we feel like we got the pieces in place to get it done,” Slaughter said. “... Giving them a little bit of hope, I think it’s starting to motivate some of those kids, so that’s important and it will prevent dropouts.”