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Bridging the gap

Online program helping former alternative?students

November 15, 2012
By ASHLEY CURTIS - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - Although BRIDGE Alternative High School closed its doors in August, students in the Copper Country continue to find the facility to be a useful educational resource.

There were several students in BRIDGE who were not prepared to go back to local high schools, so the Copper Country Intermediate School District stepped in to offer an online learning environment for interested students.

"The ISD started a GenNet lab. Genesee ISD runs the online classes that are approved by the Michigan Department of Education to meet all of their standards," said Trish Sherman, BRIDGE/GenNet lab director.

Article Photos

Ashley Curtis/Daily Mining Gazette
From left, Erich Kinney, a tutor and Michigan Technological University student, assists Skyler Kuopus, student, on mathematics homework in the GenNet lab, formerly BRIDGE Alternative High School.

In September, the CCISD decided to keep Sherman on staff at BRIDGE to oversee the students and the GenNet lab.

The previous BRIDGE facility is open from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Because the learning lab is completely online, students are not required to attend, but it is recommended.

"They're not required to be here every day, but it is beneficial for their success in these courses and they know that," Sherman said.

With the exception of Sherman, who has a background in counseling and teaching, there are no teachers on staff, but students can work with tutors who are available all day.

"We use (Michigan Technological University) students to help tutor and oversee these students," Sherman said. "Every hour of the day, we have someone from Michigan Tech here."

Erich Kinney, a mathematics major from Michigan Tech and a GenNet tutor, sees the one-on-one assistance tutors provide to the students as the greatest benefit.

"I think it reminds me of my high school. I enjoy helping students understand things I didn't understand when I was in high school," Kinney said.

Throughout the semester, students in the GenNet lab cover typical high school topics, including mathematics, English, science, history, government and economics and the volunteer-based tutors assist in all subjects, but Kinney is most utilized in subjects focusing on math.

"It's a different approach to learning. They have tutors to take you step-by-step through the process," said Skyler Kuopus, GenNet student.

CCISD Superintendent Dennis Harbour sees the program going reasonably well, but said a lot of the success comes from the help of the tutors.

"These kids need people to work with them constantly and it's not only academia. It's counseling and helping them understand life," Harbour said during Tuesday's CCISD board of education meeting.

Before beginning a new chapter in each subject, students first take a quiz to find out what is known. If there is an area a student struggles with, GenNet brings up the chapter for students to read through and review with the tutor if necessary. Students take quizzes and tests throughout the chapter, the only difference is that everything is online.

"The courses are hard, so it does take an effort," Sherman said. "But their attendance here is consistent and they're showing up."

The GenNet lab currently has 14 students enrolled from the Copper Country.

"There are a few that it has failed already, but the kids that show up, those kids are successful," Sherman said.

The CCISD initially offered this program as a transition process for students to go back to their local high school; however, it appears that Gov. Rick Snyder is supportive of providing alternatives to education for students, so legislation may allow for those alternative resources to continue for students.

"GenNet might be temporary, but there is going to be a need for some alternatives for these kids and different ways of doing things," Harbour said. "We believe we need to address the needs of these kids and I know it won't be done in the traditional format."



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