The Chandler Unified School District is adding an item to its menu of school choices available for students next year. An alternative program for junior high and high school students has been in place for 10 years in the district, but it's been run by an outside source, Blueprint Education.
School officials decided the time was right for the district to run the program itself.
And in one year, the school - which will have a name of its own in a few weeks - will also have its own campus.
"It can be overwhelming being on a campus of 3,000 or 2,600 students. The district realizes it may not be for everyone," said Saunders Montague, the new director for the program.
It's designed for students with discipline, academic or attendance challenges. They come to the current site, at Pathways Learning Center, through a referral process from the home campus. The school instructs students in English, math, social studies and science and provides counseling for students and their parents to find community-based resources that may be of help to the family, Montague said. Students meeting eligibility requirements can participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports, on their home campus.
Montague also hopes to add a voluntary community service component, such as training older students to be artists-in-residence at an elementary school.
Last year, students in the program organized a carnival for early-education learners sharing the Pathways campus with them, said Frank Narducci, director of Chandler's community education program.
"There is a lot of creativity in these students that just doesn't get to come out," Montague said. "We are giving the students opportunities to be successful to make positive choices."
Narducci and Montague said the district had always planned to take over the alternative program when resources were available.
Montague is in the process of hiring seven teachers, a guidance counselor, a secretary and a clerk/registrar.
The budget for next school year, awaiting district approval in July, includes $653,638 for the program.
Next year, the program will have room for 30 to 40 junior high students and 100 to 120 high school students, attending in two daily sessions. Students must complete at least one quarter at the alternative program and meet their goals before being transitioned back to their home campuses.
The new campus, near Frye and Cooper roads, is being built through a voter-approved bond issue and will break ground in the fall. The 25,500-square-foot building is designed to house the alternative program and future special-education services, with the possibility to expand.
The alternative program will move to the new campus for the 2009-2010 school year.