Flexibility and innovation are two of the key elements needed for students looking for something other than a traditional education program, and the Vernon School District’s Alternative Learning Programs (ALP) fills that need.
Truman Spring, director of instruction for student support services, has outlined some of the findings of the ALP subcommittee, which has met three times this year to look at program and facility requirements, locations, capacity constraints, utilization of school space, impact assessments, short-term and long-term plans and staff.
“I want to first acknowledge (ALP principal) Bruce Weitzel and all of the work that he’s done over the years for the alternate programs and his staff — they’ve done a phenomenal job,” said Spring, adding that one of the committee’s key recommendations was to make a move from alternate programs to alternative programs, in order to add more of an experiential component.
“When you have alternate kids, typically you have kids who are unwilling or unable to go to school and they have severe mental health issues and sometimes severe drug issues as well. We all recognize that there is a small population where a program like that has to exist,” said Spring. “But a good portion of our kids now that we’re dealing with have mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, so are the programs that we currently have meeting those needs and how do we adapt them?
“Coming to those terms, the question comes down to, how do all of the different programs overlap and how do we make them work in a much more experiential way.”
As well, the committee looked at how to make the ALP lease-free. Currently, the program has three more years on its lease at the Open Door downtown and it leases space on a year-to-year basis at Maven Lane for its VLearn and DL programs. The committee has considered including the Vernon Community School in its constellation of alternative programs, with the Dorothy Alexander Centre site the preferred choice for the amalgamation of programs.
“The committee would like to see the elimination of leases and have programming housed in a district-owned facility,” said Spring. “We looked at the different ALP programs we have: ALP, Open Door, VLearn DL, VCS and Crossroads, so the question simply came down to where do we go with these programs? Are they serving the purposes that they need? Are there things that we can do to modify them, adapt them, change them?
“Some of the things that we looked at were embedding them in other schools, we looked at maybe modifying some of the programs so that they could possibly fit into one space. We looked at how we might be able to combine all of them together in one location. So there’s been a lot of conversation about all of that but without final decisions. How are we going to adapt it and what do we want to do in the next five years?”
The committee is asking the board to consider a motion to proceed with the first phase of a feasibility report to indicate how much renovation or addition would be necessary to make the Dorothy Alexander property and buildings suitable to house the district’s alternate programs.