Alternative high schools have become essential. These schools provide options for teenagers who don’t, for whatever reason, fit into the traditional high school model.
Unfortunately, money concerns have resulted in education officials in Umatilla County — Milton-Freewater School District and InterMountain Educational Service District — closing next fall the area’s alternative school, Pleasant View High.
Exactly what will happen now is unclear, as a plan has yet to be formulated. However, sending some of the 100 or so students served by the school to a traditional high schools is being considered.
“There will be some kids (who) just go to Mac-Hi,” said Rob Clark, superintendent of the Milton-Freewater Unified School District. “Other than that, what’s going to happen to the kids who for whatever reason Mac-Hi just doesn’t work for them, we’ve got to figure something else out.”
We’ve become believers in the alternative school concept after seeing the huge success at Walla Walla’s Lincoln High School. Graduation rates are up and students are having successes that will help carry them through life.
No, not every kid is helped by switching learning environments, but many are. Making the effort and investment to accommodate students who have learning problems and other issues is well worth it.
Lives can be improved and better opportunities will come their way. This results in these students becoming productive citizens who will not become a burden to society by, for example, going to jail or prison.
The Pleasant View situation is a complex one as it crosses school boundaries and involved the ESD, which owns the property. The Athena-Weston School District has been sending about 10 students a year to Pleasant View.
The school building, which was originally a junior high, is in poor physical shape and needs between $150,000 to $300,000 in construction and maintenance. In addition, the school’s operating costs were $50,000 more than allocated.
Money’s tight. Choices have to be made.
Yet, investing in kids who are struggling is usually a sound investment. Keeping one kid out of a juvenile detention facility, jail or prison would easily offset the $50,000 shortfall.
“Obviously at some point in time, the students will be involved,” Clark said. “We’re going to listen to what they have to say. We’re going to listen to what a lot of people say.”
Listening — and hearing what’s said — is always a good place to start.
Choices have to be made that are best for these students, not the school district’s bottom line.