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USD 413 alternative learning center opens with reimagined vision

Posted Date: 02/02/2021

USD 413 alternative learning center opens with reimagined vision

The new alternative education center for Chanute students is in a new location, with a redesigned and upgraded interior to complement the district’s new vision for what an alternative learning center should be.

new classroom in extension academyThe typical school “does not meet every child’s needs when it comes to learning and being successful,” said Tracy Russell, assistant superintendent for Chanute Public Schools. Students who attend the new Chanute Extension Academy “will still be a member of their home school, but the CEA will be an extension of their school and a place where learning can look different.”

“Our job at the high school is to put students in the best position possible to succeed while preparing them to succeed after high school,” said Zack Murry, assistant principal at Chanute High School. “There isn't a cookie cutter type selection process and there isn't a definite mold of student that fits at the CEA,” he added. “It does … give us another option to allow students to succeed and enjoy coming to school rather than dealing with the difficulties that a traditional school setting brings them daily.”

Learning at the CEA will take place using an online curriculum called Odysseyware for certain elective courses new director of extension academyrequired for graduation, and through Google classroom with several core subject teachers.

“Learning can be personalized or tailored to meet each student's individual needs and interests,” Russell said. “For example, if a student is interested in race cars, let's capitalize on that student's interests and teach math, reading, social studies and science through their interest in race cars.  At the same time, let's help them gain employability skills so they can go into a career that they will love.”

Sean Bowman, director of the CEA, will oversee science, and RMS teachers James Reece and Brad Winder will be in charge of math and social studies.

Before attending the Academy, students must complete an application and interview process. There is a review of the applicant’s credits and attendance, and an interview about process and motivation before it is decided if the Academy is the best placement for the student.

“(Students) must complete the process, however,” Murry said. “This is not a ‘behave your way’ into it building.”

putting together furniture for academy“Once they’re accepted we start looking at their graduation plan,” Bowman said. “Teachers are here to help them and make sure their work is satisfactory,” Bowman said. “Students have to maintain a C in all their classes. They have the opportunity to earn an early dismissal if they get all their work done.”

Murry called the CEA a “refreshing upgrade” from the former alternative school.

“We want this to be a destination and not a punishment. Bowman and his CEA staff  have a ‘Students First’ outlook and will stop at nothing to make this program and their students successful,” he said. “We are ecstatic to get in the new building and watch these students take off.”

Bowman said the new space is fantastic and beautiful.

“The building itself  has been designed for a high school side and a middle school side. I think the students will feel they really have a home that was built for them. I’m excited for them.”

More than that, the new building gets them “away from a large student body with a lot of people passing in the hallways and the daily interruptions from the bells and intercom system in a traditional middle or high school,” Bowman said.

The decision reflects the school district’s philosophy.

“It really comes down to not continuing to push square pegs into round holes,” Russell said. “When students don't fit our system, we have to change the system and CEA will help to meet those student's needs.” 

An open house for the facility is planned mid-summer.