12/13/10 The Plymouth Schools have successfully operated an alternative school program at the high school level for many years. Now in its second year, it appears that a program for students who have experienced difficulties in a traditional educational setting in grades five to eight is working out well too.

Angie Mills, dean of students at Lincoln Junior High, explained the current program to the Plymouth School Board on December 9. Mills said, “This is for students who are not able to achieve in a regular classroom setting.” Students are referred to the program by a classroom teacher or principal. After the meeting, Mills said before placement, they hold a staff meeting with others who interact with the student to decide if the alternative program is the most appropriate. She said sometimes there are academic and/or safety issues to be considered.

According to Mills, placement can stem from non-compliance or disruption in the classroom, absenteeism, academic problems including underachievement, or even substance abuse. Mills said, “Sometimes absenteeism, for instance, is just a symptom for other problems.”

Currently there are nine students in the alternative classroom housed at Lincoln Junior High. Mills said two of the nine will begin transitioning back to traditional classrooms after the winter break. The process includes a contract with the alternative program teacher Ryan LeCount, parents or guardians, and the student.

Mills said transitioning at LJH can be gradual such as starting with lunch or gym classes with other students. Mills said, “This is a shared process between the student and the teacher.”

“By the time it gets to the point where a student is facing expulsion, the majority of the parents are looking for other methods to help with behaviors.” Mills said. She said they want to support parents regardless of the circumstances.

The Alternative School operates on a different schedule from the regular classes. Hours are from 9:00 a.m. until 2:45 p.m. and parents are responsible for transportation.

Jeni Hierchy, assistant principal at Riverside Intermediate, said the one student that they placed in the alternative program this year simply made a poor choice and will be transitioning back. Hierchy said the kids really respond to LeCount. She said, “He goes out and addresses their needs.” Hierchy says the program keeps kids in school. “We value education and now we just have to make sure all students value education.” she said.

Mills summed up the program saying, “The alternative program allows us to be preventative rather than reactive.”

Correspondent Carol Anders