Encouraging start for Alternative School

Goal is to cut down on repeat suspensions

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By JOE TROST

When Brookfield-Lyons School District opened the academic year, they also raised the curtain on a new Alternative School for George Washington Middle School students who have been suspended. At the board's Oct. 17 meeting, staff responsible for the district's new Alternative School gave an update on its status.

According to lead instructor Jacki Lopushonsky and Assistant Principal Jim Calabrese, the program is off to solid start.

"I would say in general most of the parents are happy with the program so far," Calabrese said. "We are taking a more proactive approach to trying to help students deal with their problems, instead of just sending them home for a couple days and hoping they will spend that time with their parents. A lot of parents work these days, so most of those kids were getting a vacation."

Instead of creating an in-school suspension area like other schools do, Calabrese pointed out that the district's goal was to create a setting where students would keep up with their schoolwork but also work on strategies to stay out of trouble.

"Our social workers work with the kids in the program and try to help them deal with different issues that caused them to be placed in this program," Calabrese said. "Kids can be suspended for 10 days or up to nine weeks.

"If a student is placed in the nine-week program, it's the step before we have to place them at an outside alternative school. The board created and supported this plan, and parents can appeal the decision if their child is place in the alternative school. We're just trying to help the kids grow both in the classroom and socially."

Calabrese said there has been anywhere from four to seven kids in the program at a time this year. Besides Lopushonsky, there also are two other instructional aides in the classroom working with the children throughout the day.

"The student-to-teacher ratio is always really low, and that's the way we like it," Calabrese said. "It's the first year of the program, so it's still a work in progress.

"We're keeping tracking of different statistics, and we'll learn from those. Our main goal is to help the kids grow and make sure they don't become repeat offenders in the program."

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