(ST. JOSEPH. Mo.) — Webster Learning Center will expand its non-traditional high school program for the 2019-2020 academic school year.
The center already offers an alternative high school program but starting next Fall Webster will offer new programs, services, formats to a bigger group.
About 60 students participated in Webster’s alternative high school programming last year. Next year, 100 new students will roam the school’s halls.
“It will nearly double our alternative high school population,” Jon Salanky, Principal of Webster Learning Center said. “There was a population of students that we didn’t feel like we were meeting their needs fully,”
The program will target students who have a difficult time engaging in a traditional classroom.
“Some students struggling to get behind and they just don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Doug Van Zyl, Superintendent of St. Joseph Schools said. “ Our hope is to be able to meet the needs of more of our students and hopefully (get them) involved and engaged in learning.”
Unlike Lafayette, Central or Benton High Schools, Webster offers an accelerated school format. Students who have fallen behind can catch up or graduate early.
“We work with students that if following the traditional path at the high school are very unlikely to meet the graduation requirements,” Salanky said. “The program is kind of a drop-out prevention program.”
According to the most recent Department of Education data, SJSD had a 3.7 drop-out rate for 2017. The average drop-out rate statewide was 2.0 for that same year.
In addition to reducing the drop-out rate, school officials believe Webster’s new services and programs will get students re-engaged in school.
“We will provide them with some wrap-around counseling services, job exploration, employability skills and hopefully a lot of service learning incorporating as well,” Salanky said.
Webster’s principal said the school is also updating facilities to align with the school’s non-traditional format.
“We are repurposing our gym, getting away from a traditional P.E. concept and moving into a more recreational leisure area for students.”
He said it will be a place for students to socialize and relax before school, between classes, and after school.
Currently, SJSD officials are working on rolling out the program to the public. Van Zyl said his staff is working on finding a way to show parents that Webster is just another vehicle driving students towards graduation.
“Sometimes people think of the alternative high schools as a consequence or punishment when rather we want to show this as an opportunity for some of our kids,” Van Zyl said.
The superintendent and principal briefed the School Board during the work session Tuesday afternoon.