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Alternative academy updates reviewed

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 was presented with an update on alternative placement programming, which includes some changes.
  The presentation was given at the Sept. 9 meeting, board member Eva Porter was absent.
  The program’s discussed included the Dream Academy, a credit recovery program called Phoenix, central school programs and private placement.
  Suzanne Johnson, deputy superintendent of instruction, said “some of these programs have seen a number of recent updates” and U-46 strives for instruction to be “culturally, linguistically and are developmentally appropriate for all of our students.”
  The Dream Academy is for high school students which includes 194 students (20 freshmen, 54 sophomores, 65 juniors, 55 seniors) enrolled this school year. Those students are predominantly male (105) while Hispanics/Latinos have made up the largest ethnicity since the 2014-2015 school year, between 64 and 72 percent.
  The academy located at the central office is a full-day program similar to the general education high schools while various co-ops at other sites, including Elgin’s Larkin High School, are for students at least 17 years old who attend classes three hours a day and work at least 10 hours a week with up to two credits earned for their job.
  An objective of the Dream Academy is to eventually transition students back to their home school or other traditional programs according to the presentation.
  The Phoenix program, new this year, provides credit recovery opportunities for students aged 17 to 20 with an objective of graduation with transition plans into college or work. Total current enrollment is 22 with a capacity up to 60.
  The central school programs are for students with individualized education plans, or IEPs. The programs include Moving On, Student Work Experience Program (SWEP) and Center House and Leatrice Satterwhite, director of specialized student services, said 61 percent of the students are in the program for emotional disabilities.
  SWEP “follows a functional curriculum designed to support students as they develop self‐determination skills and independent living skills” which “blends work, classroom activities and community instruction,” according to the presentation.
  The center house is “an actual house… that the district owns” near Elgin’s Coleman Elementary School, Satterwhite said. Students meet at the house daily and learn life skills, like depositing paychecks, with students starting after finishing high school and staying through the age of 22.
  SWEP and Center House are made up of all seniors with roughly 20 a year since 2017 in SWEP and 22 to 25 a year for Center House, and the Moving On program (seventh through 12th graders) has increased from 71 in 2017 to 114 in 2019. Males are predominately enrolled (60 percent Center House, 54 percent SWEP, 70 percent Moving On) and Hispanics/Latinos the predominant ethnicity (70 percent Center House, 63 percent SWEP, 42 percent Moving On) this year.
  Private placement includes therapeutic day schools that “offer a more restrictive setting than the self‐contained classrooms at the elementary and middle school levels as well as Central School Programs,” the presentation states.
  Enrollment in private placement has been around or over 200 annually since 2017 with high school seniors the largest group (42 students) males (73 percent) and whites (36 percent) the largest groups in 2019.
  For interim alternative educational settings, Johnson said the district has been overly reliant on outside sites like the Streamwood Behavioral Health Services to place students with behavioral issues.
  To address that the administration proposed, which the board approved at the Sept. 23 meeting, a three-year contract with Catapult Learning at a cost of $1 million to provide a kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade and sixth through eighth grade classroom for those students at Elgin’s Kimball Middle School starting next year.
  For several of the programs, the stated objective was to hopefully transition students back to their home schools. Hallie Furtak, the board’s student advisor, asked if the district had data on how successful it has been at meeting that objective, but the administration said they did not.
  Sue Kerr, the board’s president, asked about the criteria for transitioning back and when they are transitioned back after meeting the criteria. The administration said they hold discussions with school and district staff as well as the student’s family to determine criteria, and if they transition back it is at the start of a new school year or new semester.




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