Union County Public Schools offers a myriad of alternative programs
Editor’s note: In the Feb. 11 edition, a story attributed a $260,000 budget to the Union County Public Schools ALTS program. The program at Cuthbertson High School represents only a portion of those funds.
The Alternative to Long Term Suspension, housed this year at Cuthbertson High, is just one of a handful of UCPS programs targeting suspended students or students at risk for dropping out. In total, all programs cost approximately $260,000 of a total $347,548,000 budget according to the 2010-2011 UCPS Annual Budget, and serve hundreds of children in middle and high school. The county offers six programs for at-risk children. Each addresses a unique need but all share a common goal – to keep kids in school.
Middle School Programs
The Alternatives Learning Program (ALPs) targets middle school children who are older than their peers, and who are experiencing difficulty in school. ALPs provides an intense learning environment and serves 22 children this year, according to Dr. Mary Ellis, UCPS Deputy Superintendent for Instructional Programs.
Housed at South Providence, the UCPS Quarter Turn Program provides instruction for middle schoolers who require more than 10 days of suspension, the length of time defined by the state as long-term suspension, but less than 45 days. “The amount of children in this program varies as they tend to float in and out,” Ellis explained, “but we usually support between 10 and 20.”
High School Programs
Designed for high school students with chronic disciplinary problems, or those who participate in a single event that warrants their removal from a traditional high school program, the ALTS program at Cuthbertson allows suspended students to earn classroom credits away from their home school. At the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, ALTS relocated from South Providence to Cuthbertson’s empty “G” wing in Waxhaw.
According to an August 2010 report provided by Chief Communications Officer Luan Ingram, the program has been able to keep costs stable by utilizing two South Providence teachers previously dedicated to the program. Instructional supplies also came from funds previously allocated to South Providence, ensuring that Cuthbertson and UCPS did not incur extra expense. Of the 30 students eligible for ALTS, 16 enrolled during the 2010-2011 year.
UCPS’ fourth and largest alternative program is its Career Academy at South Providence, known as CASP. Despite the name, CASPs are located at every high school, and serve teens that experience extreme academic challenges for a period of at least three semesters. “Many of these children experience life changing circumstances,” Ellis explained, “and are unable to pass certain coursework.” The CASPs curriculum provides extra instruction to between 200 and 300 children until they are able to show mastery of a subject.
A Stand Alone Program
What started as a small alternative high school in the spring of 1994 grew to what people know today as UCPS’s South Providence School, an alternative stand-alone school with approximately 125 middle and high school students. According to the school’s website, the school serves those who have difficulty in a traditional school environment, and who need a more individualized educational setting along with a smaller school environment. “Students at South Providence are identified using a screening process,” Ellis said. “These students are dealing with a variety of issues.”
The Day Treatment program housed within South Providence provides cognitive and behavioral mental health services in a school setting. UCPS contracts with a third party to manage this program.
According to Ellis, the above-listed programs operate on a lean budget. “We squeeze every penny and are very fiscally responsible,” she said. The budget supports two career academy teachers, and pays for one-half of an assistant principal.
A large percentage of the $100,000 allocated for supplies and materials funds ODYSSEYWARE, an e-learning instructional program for CASP students.