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Tri-Creek Schools: Opportunity Center

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Public school officials in Lowell say an alternative to expulsion or suspension, initiated last January, has been a win-win situation for students, parents and Lowell High School. Tri-Creek Assistant School Superintendent Nathan Kleefisch says the district's Opportunity Center for students grades six-through-twelve keeps kids inside the school setting, where they can continue to learn. Kleefisch says the Opportunity Center is not a middle school or high school setting but an alternate educational setting where they can continue their education while the restitution for the offense takes place.  Upon successful completion, the student returns to the high school, and school officials it gives students the opportunity to be able to graduate on-time, and with their classmates.

Here's an article from the school district on the program:

Alternative to Suspension/Expulsion

By Mr. Michael Chelap, Principal

Lowell High School, Lowell, Indiana

Our goal at Lowell High School is to graduate all students in four years in a high performing educational setting and safe environment. At times, certain students disrupt the educational setting and safety of other students. Just like drivers that violate rules of the road, there are consequences for their behavior. Depending on the seriousness of a student’s misconduct and behavior, the student may be suspended or expelled from school. Guess what? Students that have an excessive number of suspensions or an expulsion jeopardize the goal of graduating with their classmates.

Last January, Tri-Creek School Corporation initiated the Opportunity Center for students in grades 6-12 that have been suspended or expelled from school. Facilitated by a licensed teacher, an instructional assistant, and a licensed counselor, the Opportunity Center is held each day for one or two four-hour sessions in the Tri-Creek Corporation Administration Center.

On Mondays through Fridays, the Opportunity Center school day provides time to complete class assignments, to work on academic remediation skills, and to complete courses through computer credit recovery software. Regional Mental Health Center, a local mental heath agency, provides daily group counseling on topics such as conflict resolution, anger management, decision-making, and achievement of behavior goals. The Opportunity Center program respects students and emphasizes personal responsibility as well as the parents’/guardians’ responsibility. The Opportunity Center does not dwell on a student’s past failures, but looks forward toward positive changes in student behaviors. Research shows that one of the most effective methods of disciplining a student is to use a realistic approach while building trusting, supportive relationships.

The Opportunity Center has a short-term session of a minimum of five days for students. Upon successful completion, the student returns to the high school. Students with a long-term placement (expulsion or administrative placement) have direct instruction of core subjects each day of the week. Before sending a student to the Opportunity Center, an administrator meets with the parent and student to discuss the Opportunity Center procedures. Parents provide transportation to and from the Opportunity Center for their students.

During the four-month period the students attended last school year, each student obtained a minimum of 5 credits. Only one high school student was removed from the center for improper behavior, and 83% of courses enrolled in were completed. Five students who were expelled last spring completed their course work at the Opportunity Center and graduated with their classmates in June 2012. In the past, these five students would not have received an education for a minimum of one semester and would not have graduated on time. The Opportunity Center is fulfilling its purpose, and it has been a win-win situation for students, parents, and Lowell High School.

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