Green River School may reopen in November as part of an alternative high school program

  • The Green River School in Greenfield. Recorder/Paul Franz Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 8/7/2018 7:37:36 PM

GREENFIELD — The dormant Green River School may become the home of an alternative high school as early as November.

The program, which would be known as the Green River Educational Alternatives for Teens (GREAT) School, has two intentions: provide a path to graduation for students who are at high risk of not completing their studies.

The more long-term goal would be to provide space for students with individualized needs, including top-academic students who are looking for additional enrichment to meet personal goals.

The proposal will be brought to the Greenfield School Committee tonight at its regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the GCTV studio on Main Street.

If the program is not immediately approved by the committee, its chances of running this fall or this year could be severely hindered since staff still needs to be hired, school officials said. Highlighting the difficulties for public schools that have to remain test-driven, one-size fits all model of education, the pilot proposal looks to address this concern, especially as some students struggle to meet the state’s graduation requirements.

“It really gives us a strong path to graduation and strong career skills,” Superintendent Jordana Harper said at Tuesday’s health and safety subcommittee meeting, when the proposal was discussed in advance of tonight’s full committee meeting. “It serves a real need here in Greenfield and in Franklin County.”

The building has been closed since the Math and Science Academy moved out at the end of the 2016 to 17 school year, before going to the Greenfield Middle School.

The superintendent and subcommittee continued to flesh out the plan, its intent and cost. The price tag for this year’s pilot comes in at about $190,000, although that is subject to change. On Tuesday, there were discussions to raise it to $250,000 as a better estimate.

The cost of the program is also dependent on the number of students involved. At the moment, school administrators have identified 10 to 15 high school students who are a good fit.

The program will not be mandated by administration. Instead, participation in the program depends on the student with parental approval.

In the pilot version of the school, the idea would be to open its doors about an hour later than the usual 7:30 start, which is more in line with a traditional work day. Students will be encouraged to arrive to school on their own, as in the professional world, and may be provided with a bus pass if needed. The school will likely have to offer some transportation so as to provide access to all who want to participate, School Committee member Susan Hollins said.

It’s envisioned that Monday through Thursday, students would have non-traditional academic classes, with opportunities for individualized learning and classes elsewhere, like online or potentially in partnership with another institution, like Greenfield Community College. On Fridays, students will be in the classroom and working on arts and enrichment activities to create “some sense of a cohort and connectedness,” Harper said. Students will also still have their regular opportunities to participate in high school extracurriculars and sports.

The program will include embedded job site training. There will be efforts to teach students “soft-skills” like resume writing, interview techniques and internship or job training chances.

The program has been designed in partnership with the Franklin-Hampshire Regional Employment Board.

“We have a number of places we have known relationships and we will continue to build on that,” Harper said. “But it matters what the students’ interests are.”

In the future, the program could give students at Greenfield High School who have interests in professions like law, medicine or art a chance to gain real-world exposure.

The program will look to hire two teachers, one who can teach English and history and the other who can teach math and science. If the teachers are certified to teach special education, that would be a plus.

An associate principal at the high school is expected to go to the GREAT School to supervise two days a week. The high school’s school resource officer would likely spend occasional time there as well, Harper said.

Students likely would spend the rest of the academic year in this program, but, it’s not intended for students to be strictly at one school or the other. Harper said it’s more fluid than that, and students will be able to participate in this alternative school when it’s needed for them. Hollins suggested there should be more structured entry and exit guidelines to help keep families better involved.

If the program is approved by the School Committee this week, Harper said she can begin contacting students, working on hiring the teachers and finish cleaning up the school.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264




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