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New Educational Offerings at Sewanhaka

The new school year brings change to the Sewanhaka Central High School District as it implements an Alternative High School and Academic Learning Center, both housed at Sewanhaka High School.

The Alternative High School will support the district’s nontraditional learners. According to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Kathleen Sottile, the Alternative High School will provide opportunities to further individuality, improve self-esteem and enhance social skills for students where educational, behavioral or medical needs cannot be accommodated in a traditional school environment.

Students, who will be taught in multi aged classes (grades 9-12), will receive support from teachers, a social worker, a guidance counselor, a teaching assistant and supervisor. Multiple modalities such as blended learning, inquiry-based teaching, project-based learning and performance assessments will be utilized as the primary means of instruction and assessment. Students will also be equipped with iPads so that they can become immersed in a blended learning environment.

“Ultimately this program will increase engagement, foster motivation and provide additional opportunities for our students to graduate with a Regents diploma and become independent, lifelong learners and articulate citizens,” Dr. Sottile said.

The Academic Learning Center was created based on the district’s desire to move away from counterproductive, zero-tolerance discipline policies in lieu of proven restorative approaches to addressing conflict in their schools.

After analyzing suspension data biannually through the district’s Equity Task Force committee as well as the impact of the former suspension protocol and assignment to out-of-school suspensions, the district concluded there was no significant gains for the student in terms of behavioral changes or increased academic success. It was realized that nothing more than a loss of instructional time occurred.

Administrators felt that when students learn from their mistakes, healthier school climates emerge. To that end, beginning September, if a student receives an out-of-school suspension, they will report to the new Academic Learning Center. Here they will receive their academic instruction through a blended model of instruction. Teachers will be assigned to guide students through online instruction with the district’s own curriculum through a Schoology platform, Right Reason Technologies resources, and one-on-one instruction with teachers. Social-emotional support will be provided as well as any services necessary to aid in the health and safety of the whole child.