Walla Walla's Lincoln High drops 'alternative' from moniker

The change is part of a shift done for budgetary reasons, officials said.

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WALLA WALLA -- The city's second public high school is going by a new name.

Lincoln Alternative High School is now Lincoln High School, according to Walla Walla Public Schools.

The decision to drop the word "alternative" from the school name was made earlier this school year, said Mark Higgins, district communications director.

Lincoln is the district's second high school, next to Walla Walla High School, and provides an alterative to Wa-Hi, where the majority of the city's high school students attend. But Lincoln does not fit the state's operation and funding definitions of an alternative school, Higgins said.

"Although it is an alternative to Walla Walla High School, it functions as a full-day program just like Wa-Hi," Higgins said in an e-mail.

Higgins said the state cut funding to alternative schools this year. But on inspection, Lincoln is more like a traditional high school than an alternative one based on state definitions. Dropping the "alternative" helps prevent any confusion on its function, and the redefinition helped the school avoid cuts.

"The district had to move quickly in order to keep us fully funded," said Jim Sporleder, Lincoln principal, in an email. "I am thankful that I did not lose any staff and we were provided additional classes in art, floriculture, support classes for students struggling in reading and writing as well as expanding our precision machine class."

Higgins said Lincoln operates with the same minimum hour requirements as a traditional high school, rather than the flexible schedules that characterize alternative schools.

"Lincoln functions as a full day program for all of its students," Higgins said. "This allows the school to be funded at the same level as Walla Walla High School and not as an 'alternative' program such as Homelink, which receives less funding from the state."

Homelink is a program based at Berney Elementary School that offers classroom time and resources to home-schooling families.

Sporleder took over leadership of the district's alternative education programs in 2007. Under his leadership, the alternative programs were eventually consolidated at Paine Campus, the former name for Lincoln. The Lincoln Alternative High School name was established during that time.

With about 250 students, Lincoln offers a smaller learning environment and more individualized instruction than Wa-Hi, which serves close to 1,800 students.

Since 2007, Lincoln has been offering more programs and courses in a shift toward a more traditional school model. The school adopted a mascot, the Phoenix, and began a yearbook. Students have formed sports teams, and the school has added extra-curricular activities like theater, music and culinary arts. Lincoln students attend classes on the same daily schedule as other district schools.

The district does still offer alternative learning choices to students in need of such instruction, said Laure Quaresma, an assistant superintendent for WWPS.

The district offers contract-based learning programs to Wa-Hi and Lincoln students who may be struggling with the demands of a traditional learning schedule.

Quaresma said the individualized, contract-based programs, were provided even when Paine Campus and the Opportunity Program made up the district's alternative offerings.

High school students also have choices through the Alternative Education Program and Running Start, both offered at Walla Walla Community College in partnership with Walla Walla Public Schools.

And Lincoln continues to be a place sought by students who are looking for a different high school experience.

"We like to look at it like this: Walla Walla Public Schools offers vast choices for students to meet their individual learning needs," Higgins said.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

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