The need for an alternative school in Carbon County continues to be discussed by education officials and local community.
In the past, members of the general public have considered the Lighthouse program to be an alternative school. But the Lighthouse is considered to be a program to get the students back into the regular school cirriculum.
The issue of an alternative school for the district was not on the agenda at the Carbon Board of Education meeting on Jan. 11. But the matter surfaced as an addendum to a discussion about the shortage of spots for youth at the Lighthouse and what to do with junior high school students who are not making the grade in regular classrooms.
"When the Lighthouse program was set up, we were able to put certain students there because there was room," pointed out Mont Harmon Principal Todd Lauritsen. "However, in the last few years, the program has been inundated with high school students who lack credits. When we have ninth grade students to place there, it is full. I am not sure what we can do. We need some type of alternative for credit deficient students, problem kids who are making it and others. But right now, we have no where to turn."
Superintendent David Armstrong told the board that the Lighthouse does not have the teaching capacity for ninth grade students.
"I guess my question is - where do we want to solve this problem?" asked Lauritsen. "Where do we want to catch them at? Do we want to catch them in junior high or when they are seniors in high school? We just need a way to fill the needs we have."
The board of education members raised several questions about the situation, including how many students Lauritsen felt he had who would benefit from such a program.
"There are 38 that are having some real problems," he responded. "But right now I think we have 21 who could benefit from such a program. Many of the students that we are having problems with I believe would straiten out if they thought they were going to go to a program like that rather than stay at our school. But with not alternative, they just continue on."
Lauritsen pointed out that while Helper Junior High is smaller than Mont Harmon they too have need for such a program.
"That's true," said Judy Mainord, director of the LIghthouse. "Without a ninth grade cirriculem we can't serve either Todd's or Tom's (Montoya, principal of Helper Junior High) needs in that area. We can't spare a teacher to handle the ninth grade cirriculem. Right now we have so many high schoolers who never can return to the regular high school program that we must send them on to adult education. The way it is working now we are backloading the problems instead of frontloading them."
But the program will work for some students if they were sent to it said Greg Maughan, the assistant principal at Mont Harmon.
"We had a student we were able to send over to an open slot a couple of years ago, It really changed him. He's a different kid."
Board member Jim Leonard said that it appeared to him that the problem was just a matter of having a teacher to take over the ninth grade kids sent to the Lighthouse.
"So if this is a problem, which school wants to give up a teacher to staff that program," he said. "I know you don't have an overabundance of teachers, so that is the hard part."
That is when the discussion about an alternative school came into the conversation. Lauritsen said that some kids don't do well in a regular setting but in an alternative system they get through the process.
"Things are so different for kids today than they were when we went to school,"said Mainord. "I have thought maybe we should look at a charter school that works just on vocational items. We'd want it to be one that is directed by the district. But people shouldn't get the wrong idea about alternative schools. They aren't just for failing kids but for those that just don't fit into the regular educational system."
Board president Grady McEvoy worried that such a school could just become a dumping ground for kids no one wants to work with.
But the superintendent also reminded everyone tha the state legislature had put an end to charter schools being started and run by regular school districts with some recent legislation.
The discussion ended there, with no resolution to the problem, but some talk about exploring the possibilities of what could be done with under performing and non-performing students at the junior high schools.
The board also address the calendar for this year to make sure they didn't run into the problems that they had over the holiday season with irate parents and students concerned about the late date school was to be dismissed for the holidays before Christmas.
"We have brought the calendar back so that we are sure that there is ample time for the break before and after the Christmas break for this next year," said McEvoy. "I just want to be sure we avoid being caught in this position again."
Originally school this past holiday season was supposed to go through the Friday before Christmas. But with Christmas on the following Sunday, many felt that it cut out the ability of many families to travel and be to their destinations before Christmas Eve.
"I don't think it will be a problem this year because Christmas and New Years Day are on Monday instead of Sunday," said Armstrong.
The board took no further action on the calendar, leaving it as it was originally adopted.