The Corvallis School District School Board approved operating an alternative school last spring and is designing the program to open in the fall.
Superintendent Tim Johnson said the independent school will meet student needs.
“It is especially for students who maybe need a different setting than a public school,” Johnson said. “We do very well with a large portion of students and this is another tool we will have to meet the needs of students who may not match the larger population.”
The funding will come from the school district, starting small and expanding as needed.
“It is a clear need that we have seen in the high school,” Johnson said. “It will start in the library and with a .3 FTE increase in faculty, otherwise we are using existing staff and resources. We do have a dedicated group of core teachers.”
CHS Principal Cammie Knapp helped design the program and previous principal/current librarian Jason Wirt will head the program with classes taught online and by another current teacher with support from additional services.
This year the program is limited to 10 students. Freshmen are not allowed to participate in the program. Students gain admission through a counselor’s referral and an application process requiring recommendations and student performance data.
“There is an interview process and the independent high school committee which involves teachers, principal and counselors,” Johnson said. “Students must initiate this but they do go through a qualification process.”
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Johnson said there are no fees to attend because it is part of a public education.
“It is another option, another angle at helping students meet the requirements for education,” he said. “It also helps them experience education in a different setting, in a little different context. It is part of making school more personalized, more individualized and more interesting and engaging.”
The program is not for students behind in credits who are realistically unable to make them up. Students must earn 24 credits, meet attendance requirements and make solid scores on the Northwest Evaluation Association MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) testing that measures what students know and what they are ready to learn next.
“It is predicated on alternative ways of delivering information, very relationally-based,” Johnson said. “I don’t mean necessarily relationship but relationally-based so the information is more relatable to students. There is also an expectation that although this is different you are expected to perform and you are expected to follow through.”
Johnson said that before coming to Corvallis he had been involved in starting a middle school alternative school and the process of setting up the school are similar to setting up the Corvallis Independent High School. He believes the school board, administrative team and teachers are all on board with the program design, definition and execution.
Johnson confirmed that the Corvallis School District created the independent school in response to families sending their children to the Hamilton Alternative School as another option. Currently, the Corvallis Independent High School is only open to Corvallis students, starting small and making sure it is successful before any type of expansion.
“I think it will be another great tool that public schools have to meet the needs of students in a way that is cost effective and efficient,” Johnson said. “We’ll grow as needed.”