GREENFIELD — It’s not a punishment.
That’s the message Kim Kile wants students selected for Greenfield-Central’s new alternative school next year to hear.
Kile, counseling director at Greenfield-Central High School, is stressing the positives of offering an alternative to a traditional classroom setting. The district recently purchased the former First Church of God — located next door to the high school — and is renovating it into an alternative school for students who don’t flourish in a conventional classroom setting and might be at risk of dropping out.
Educators said they hope the new school will present students with another avenue to complete their high school degrees by giving them flexibility in their school days.
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By the next school year, the building at 700 N. Broadway St. will house classrooms and a childcare center if all goes as planned.
For years, Greenfield-Central educators have stressed the need for an alternative school to better serve their students, specifically those who don’t perform best in an 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. school setting. But finding a suitable facility and the funding to pursue the project took time, school board president Retta Livengood said.
Late last year, when the First Church of God moved out of its building to join another congregation in Fortville, the school district saw an opportunity.
Last month, the corporation purchased the property for about $580,000, Superintendent Harold Olin said. Crews have already started small renovation projects, but construction likely won’t rev up until summer after the school corporation goes before Greenfield’s board of zoning appeals for approval needed for major construction.
Olin expects the school district will spend between $250,000 and $300,000 to get the 17,500-square-foot building ready for students. Renovating the former church was a cheaper option than building from the ground up, Olin said, which likely would have cost between $2 and $3 million.
In addition to housing classrooms for an alternative school, the district plans to open a childcare center for children 2½ years and older. That will give Greenfield-Central employees a centrally located option for childcare while also giving the high school’s consumer science students childcare experience without having to leave the high school’s campus.
Olin said he oesn’t expect the childcare center to be ready until at least January 2017. The district’s main focus for the building is getting the alternative school up and running.
Next year, Olin said he expects it will serve about 30 students. In time, administrators hope it will serve as many as 60 students annually. The school corporation will hire two teachers for the alternative school, and administrators are already interviewing educators for those positions, Principal Steve Bryant said.
Now educators at the high school are working to identify upperclassmen to participate in next year’s program, Kile said. The students who will participate need to have a drive to be successful, she said. The program will offer a flexible course load, but students need to want to finish school.
They’ll look for students who are close to completing their degree but need some extra time to gain the remaining credits needed to graduate.
“This is not a punishment,” she said. “We want a student who wants to be there, and we want to be working with families who see this as a way to finish.”
While educators are still working out exactly what the school days will look like for students, they know the program will offer a morning and afternoon session. It will focus on classroom learning while also placing emphasis on community service and internships. Students will be able to attend school for three hours or so each day and take other courses online, an option also available through the school’s online academy. Such a schedule will give students an opportunity to work during the day, if needed.
Because the teacher ratio at the school will be at most 15 students per teacher, there will be more individual attention for each student, Olin said. At the high school, some classrooms have 25 students or more — a number that can be intimidating for some learners.
“1,450 students is a pretty overwhelming high school for some kids,” Olin said. “Individual attention would certainly keep kids interested in school a lot longer.”
Corporation leaders hope to see the district’s graduation rate — 88.2 percent last year — rise to meet or exceed the 90 percent state benchmark by offering students another option to finish school, Olin said.
Livengood said the school board wants to see the corporation adapt to all types of students who come into Greenfield-Central buildings — whether they have special needs, are high-ability learners or somewhere in between.
“The easier we can make it for students to at least get a high school diploma, the brighter their future is going to be,” Livengood said.
Greenfield-Central School Corp. has plans to open an alternative school next year.
The building, located just south of the high school in the former First Church of God, is 17,500 square feet.
It cost Greenfield-Central roughly $580,000 to purchase the building, and will likely require an estimated $250,000 more to get it up and running.
Once operating, the school will serve about 60 students.
“We want a student who wants to be there, and we want to be working with families who see this as a way to finish.”
– Greenfield-Central counseling director Kim Kile on the corporation’s new alternative school
“The easier we can make it for students to at least get a high school diploma, the brighter their future is going to be,”
– School board president Retta Livengood on Greenfield-Central’s new alternative school