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Estacada school district moves ahead on alternative school

The Estacada School District has formed a committee to explore the possibility of an alternative high school.

“I’m very much in favor of an alternative school,” said Marla Stephenson, superintendent of the Estacada School District. “I’m endorsing it.”

Ryan Carpenter, principal at Estacada High School, agreed.

“We’ve found that for 15-20 percent of our students, general education is just not for them,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to work with every student at every level.”

Previously, the district had partnered with Timberlake Job Corps to create an alternative high school program, but it ended in 2012.

Planning for the school is still in the early stages, and its location and admission criteria are being considered.

“We’re still determining if the program will be strictly credit recovery or an environment for kids who want to do high school in alternative learning setting,” said Stephenson. “We’re thinking it will probably be a blend at this point — credit recovery for those who want to get back into Estacada High, and an opportunity for students who have no interest in a comprehensive high school.”

The program would replace the high school’s online credit recovery program, in which approximately 50 juniors and seniors are enrolled.

While freshman and sophomores repeat classes they have not passed at the high school, juniors and seniors who have fallen a year or more behind are enrolled in an accelerated online credit recovery program, in addition to taking a full load of credits at the high school.

Carpenter said the program has not been as successful as he would like it to be and believes the face-to-face instruction would be beneficial to students who are enrolled in the online credit recovery program.

“In order to be successful in an online learning model, you need to be independently motivated, and these are the kids who struggle with that,” he said.

Both Carpenter and Stephenson agree that an alternative high school would improve Estacada High School’s graduation rate, which was 74.64 percent for the 2014-15 school year.

“(The alternative school will) provide more students with the tools they need to earn the credits to have a high school diploma,” Stephenson said.

Carpenter hopes the program could be something of a cost-neutral shift.

“Staff (at the high school) is based on student enrollment, so if some of the students shifted, some of the staff could as well,” he said.

He looks forward to seeing the future of the alternative school, which would begin in the 2016-17 school year.

“We need to find the best situation for all students in Estacada,” he said.