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Monday, March 20,2000

New alternative school to open in April

By Athens NEWS Staff
A new alternative school in Athens County will open next month to help students who may be having behavioral problems in the public schools, or who just need to attend the school for other reasons.

A new alternative school in Athens County will open next month to help students who may be having behavioral problems in the public schools, or who just need to attend the school for other reasons.

John Costanzo, superintendent of the Athens-Meigs Education Services Center, said Tuesday that the county has received a grant for $240,000 to fund the alternative school.

The grant is for an 18-month period, and the funding period actually started on Jan. 1 of this year, even though the money was just delivered last week.

?It gives us start-up money,? Costanzo said about the grant. ?We have to continue to find ways to sustain the alternative school when the funding runs out.? All five of Athens County?s school districts will use the alternative school and were considering funding it even if it did not receive the grant funds, he added.

The program will start in April at one of the old Federal Hocking Junior High School buildings in Stewart. One of the other school buildings in Stewart is already being used by the five districts as a severe behavior handicapped (SBH) unit. Costanzo said the SBH unit has been in place since last fall for students who have difficulty controlling their behavior. The unit, he added, teaches students about responsibility as well as academics, as the students take pride in the building, prepare their own lunches, and do other things to build life skills.

The new alternative school also will help students with their life skills and academic skills, Costanzo said.

Students will be taken at the school for short, intermediate and long terms. The short-term students will stay for 3-10 days, while the intermediate will stay for a grading period or more, and the long-term will stay for half or all of a school year, Costanzo said.

?We?re creating a different type of setting for a number of kids that might have trouble being successful in a traditional setting,? Costanzo said. Those students, he added, include those who have had some behavioral problems in their own school districts.

Ted Byatt, superintendent of the Federal Hocking Local School District, said the alternative school will be good for all of the districts in the county, as well as their students. They?ll learn about coping skills and how to think about the consequences of their actions, he said.

The school, Byatt added, will help the students while not disturbing classes in the students? home schools.

The alternative school also will be able to serve students who might not be able to graduate from a traditional school because of their work. Many area teenagers have to work to help support their families, and the alternative school might be able to work out an arrangement with students who work during the day and need to attend classes at night. This could help curb the number of drop-outs and help more people receive their high school diplomas, Costanzo said.

The current plans for the alternative school call for it taking up to 50 short-term students, around 25 intermediate students, and around 12 long-term students at one time.

The program is being started in April, Costanzo said, to get a head start on next year to work out any problems that might come up. Costanzo said the alternative school is close to hiring a coordinator, and things will move very quickly after that person is hired.

The main goal of the alternative school is to help students with their problems so they can attend their home schools again, Costanzo said. The program will be adapted to meet the needs of the five districts in the county and Costanzo said he believes it will be very successful.


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