CHATFIELD, Minn. – After the alternative school that students from Chatfield had been going to closed down, Principal Randy Paulson came up with the idea to set up an alternative learning program, or ALP, inside of Chatfield High School — and so far the “school within a school” has been a success.
Rather than sending the 14 Chatfield students to a different alternative school, they work in a room in the high school. The program is called “Focus” and what makes it unique is that students have the option to take regular classes in addition to the work they do in the program.
“The ideal piece of this, the hybrid piece, is that they’re able to go to a regular “ed” class; if they’re good at English, or if they’re in band, or if they want to be in the choir, they can do all of those and then come back to the security of the alternative room,” explains Dave Hinck, Focus instructor.
Hinck says he expressed interest in the ALP when Paulson came up with the idea and decided to “throw his hat into the ring.”
“Five minutes later, he (Paulson) was in my room, shook my hand and said, “Congrats, you’re appointed.'”
Hinck says their goal was to make Focus a comfortable place where students can come, catch up on their class credits and make it to graduation. He says attendance tends to be an issue at other ALP’s.
“A lot of places, under 50 percent the attendance, and we’re running at about 85 percent, so we’re feeling pretty good that they’re comfortable where they’re at,” he adds.
He says having the option to take regular classes in the high school helps the students feel like they’re “apart” of the school
While the program is still very new, Hinck says he could see it expanding, which is why they are moving toward getting Focus licensed as an alternative program with the state.