HANCOCK - Since BRIDGE Alternative High School in Hancock closed its doors permanently in August, administrators at the Copper Country Intermediate School District say they intend to help students transition smoothly back into local high schools.
Trish Sherman, director of BRIDGE, asked the CCISD if she could stay on to help students from the alternative high school transition back into local school districts. During the CCISD board of education's regular meeting Tuesday evening, she gave an update of what she plans to do as an "at-risk advocate" for the former BRIDGE students and possibly others.
"These are the kids who don't qualify for the special (education) services," she said. "These are the kids who don't have the support services at school or at home."
Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Dennis Harbour, superintendent of the Copper Country Intermediate School District, far right, gives an update to the district’s board of education Tuesday evening concerning the closure of BRIDGE Alternative High School.
Sherman said she has contacted many of the students about transitioning back into the districts and the plan is to attempt to enroll interested students in online classes, called GenNet, and utilize students from Michigan Technological University and Finlandia University as tutors.
While some students from BRIDGE opted to go to Horizons Alternative High School in Mohawk operated by the Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw, some returned to their respective districts, with many going to Houghton-Portage Township Schools and the Adams Township School District.
An estimated 12 students professed interest in attending the online program, Sherman said. They will be given a computer and space to work on the program at the BRIDGE site.
"GenNet is an online learning instruction program approved by the state of Michigan," she said. "They can work on it at home. It's 24/7."
Sherman said it's important the students get the tutoring they need, as the success rate is 71 percent for students who have someone overseeing their online learning. Sherman said she encouraged the students to attend school daily in order to be successful, and about 20 student tutors are on board to help this year.
Now in its second year, the tutoring program with Michigan Tech and Finlandia students has been widely successful, she said.
"We have 44 students from Michigan Tech and Finlandia last year who came to our school daily and it was very successful," she said. "We had nothing but positive feedback."
Sherman said she was excited to see the program continue. Services for BRIDGE students will also be explored, such as housing for students without a home and counseling services.
Students using the online program are enrolled at local school districts, and the districts will pay for students to use the program. Sherman will be employed through the CCISD and will oversee the students while offering her support.
"Trish will coordinate the times they would come to this learning lab," Superintendent Dennis Harbour said. "She would work with the teachers at the local school districts who will oversee work in the learning lab. Local school districts have an obligation at providing oversight, but Trish coordinates everything."
Harbour said Sherman may sometimes go to the student's home and take them to school, as it is a part of their success in the program.
"Their life is complicated," he said. "There's so much more than academia in their lives."
Sherman, who has a background in counseling and teaching, will work one-on-one with many students.
The GenNet program will run as a trial program this year. Some laptops will be provided by the CCISD and a few more desktop computers have been ordered.
The local school districts agreed to pay for the newly ordered desktops, he said.
"These kids need their mentors and tutors to get through this," Harbour said.
A majority of the students utilizing the program are high school juniors. The key is to get them on track to graduation.
The programs are just starting at the districts and Sherman said they are expecting a smooth transition to online learning.
"(Adams Township Schools superintendent) Tim Keteri put kids on it today and said within an hour, three were already working on it," she said.
Sherman will start providing services Monday.