Alternative school comes to Marshall County

Friday, July 24, 2009

An alternative school is to be available to Marshall County students in grades 7 through 12 when classes start next month. It will be housed in an unused portion of the Lewisburg Middle School building, but director of schools Stan Curtis says alternative school students "won't mingle with the LMS student body." They will enter through a separate door and won't use the cafeteria - food will be brought to them.

Lisa Ventura, supervisor of special education, and Beverly Miller, supervisor of 7th-12th grade instruction, came to the school board's policy committee meeting Tuesday evening, ready to discuss policies for the alternative school.

The policy committee did not have a quorum (only chairwoman Ann Tears and board member Randy Perryman were present), so they could not make any decisions, but none was needed in order for the alternative school to start operations on Aug. 7, the first full day of school.

"We have policies in place for an alternative school," assistant director Roy Dukes pointed out. A small alternative school has been located in the Spot Lowe building, but there was no room for the zero-tolerance pupils there.

Ventura and Miller had brought changes to the dress code, which is intended to be stricter for alternative school, and a metal detector policy. Discussion can wait for another policy committee meeting, or for the full board meeting on Aug. 13.

"We're starting a new venture here," said Curtis. Four of the students who were zero-toleranced out of school last year have been informed they can attend alternative school.

"We're going to open it up to chronic behavior issues as well," Curtis said. "Principals can use it as a last resort for pupils with behavior issues: send them to alternative school for 10 to 20 days."

"I don't think we'll have any trouble filling it up," added Miller.

Now that Marshall County has an alternative school, it will be mandatory for students who are zero-toleranced out of school to attend.

"It's an alternative to expulsion - that doesn't help the kids at all," Curtis said. "We can keep them in school and get the funding, and it should help our attendance and reduce the drop-out rate."

"These two have really worked hard to make it happen," Curtis said, pointing to Ventura and Miller. "We've made some really good decisions. I think it's going to help kids."

Curtis has hired two teachers, and transferred a special education teacher, so there will be three teachers for a maximum of 30 children.

"The lower student to teacher ratio helps kids catch up," said Curtis. The A-Plus software will help the three teachers to make sure students master the skills they need for their grade level.

"It's a privilege for these kids to be able to attend alternative school instead of being home schooled," Curtis said.