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Alternative classroom programs continue

PV, SW-G pool resources for school

September 12, 2010
By EMILIE NELSON, Messenger staff writer

BOXHOLM - The Prairie Valley and Southeast Webster-Grand school districts are working together to ensure that their students succeed in school and life.

The Prairie Valley/Southeast Webster-Grand Alternative High School began its first academic year on Aug. 30 with 12 students enrolled for its first semester. The Ogden Community Schools also had the option of participating in the shared program, but did not enroll any students for the first semester.

The program was designed to fill a need for alternative education in the area when Iowa Central Community College dropped its alternative program.

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A typical day at the alternative school begins around 8:30 a.m. The majority of students' core classes are taken online through Bridgewater Academy, an accredited virtual school, taught by Bridgewater faculty. Their individual progress is monitored by Jessie Muench, of Prairie Valley, and Travis McKimmey, of Southeast Webster-Grand.

"When Iowa Central dropped the alternative program, Mr. (Jim) Dick (Superintendent of Prairie Valley Community Schools) and Dr. (Mike) Jorgensen (former superintendent of Southeast Webster-Grand Community Schools), knew we needed an alternative avenue for our students and began working with Bridgewater, and this is where we have started," said Launi Dane, Superintendent at SW-G.

After lunch, students are bused to Fort Dodge where they will observe up to 30 different career exploratory areas throughout the school year in the areas of industrial technology, business and heath/science.

Students at the school have been recommended by teachers, counselors, at-risk managers and parents. Criteria for acceptance are that they aren't able to thrive in a regular high school setting.

"A lot of them just weren't successful in the regular school setting, so this smaller school setting really helps them out," Dane said. "They have an attendance policy to follow that is similar to their school's, and it may even be a little tighter."

"It can be credits, grades, attendance or social issues," said Tina Kastendieck, school administration manager at Prairie Valley. "Anything where they just weren't successful in the regular high school format."

The alternative school follows a rigorous curriculum, going by Bridgewater's 80 percent to pass guidelines. Students take their English, math, science and social studies assignments and tests online, and work with their school's graduation credit requirements.

"They are still students at their high schools," Kastendieck said. "They can attend all of their schools' dances and proms and participate in sports and activities as long as they are enrolled here full-time. When they graduate, they receive an alternative education diploma and graduate with the rest of their high school class."

The goal is that in the second year of the program, students will be able to choose one exploratory area to observe and study. After successful completion of their core classes, they can take courses for college credit through Iowa Central.

"The goal is to get them to do an exploratory all year," Dane said. "After their second year, they could have up to a year of college credit."

Kastendieck said the program has gotten off to a good start, with a list of students waiting to get into the program.

"It's exciting to know there is a list of students who want to use the program," she said. "They can get so much out of this because not each traditional classroom is 12 to 1 with a teacher and students. It's something we never could have done if our districts didn't work so well together."

Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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