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Ironwood mulls moving alternative school program

 

Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe

IAN SHACKLEFORD, of the Safe Routes to School planning committee, discusses different safe routes for students to walk and bike to school during an Ironwood Area School Board of Education meeting, Monday.

IRONWOOD — The Ironwood Area School Board of Education heard from students and faculty about the possible movement of the Birchwood Alternative School from Bessemer to Ironwood, Monday.

During an Aug. 19 meeting, superintendent Tim Kolesar was asked to make arrangements to move the alternative school out of the St. Sebastian building in Bessemer to help save the cost of renting the building.

But with the start of school on Sept. 3, it proved to be an “impossible task,” said Kolesar.

Different options were discussed by the board previously, including moving the students to Luther L. Wright School for evening classes.

Lori Struwe, of the alternative school, attended Monday’s meeting with around five students who all spoke against moving the classes to LLW and changing the times.

Major concerns included transportation from local communities to LLW in the evenings, and schedules already being set during the day.

One student spoke about how some students had bad experiences in regular high schools and were not comfortable with the idea of going back to one.

The alternative school utilizes Gogebic County Transit to help students get to class, but the blue buses do not run in the evening.

Another issue was making sure the school met the required number of hours of teaching. Students attend classes in a block schedule from 8:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. every day. The evening plan would have the students attend LLW for only four hours, but it wouldn’t be enough, according to Struwe.

“We need at least 1,098 hours,” Struwe said. “Four hours each night would only give us 61 percent of the total hours we need.”

According to Struwe, if the alternative school schedule were to be moved into the evenings, she knows many students wouldn’t be able to attend.

“They have after school jobs, transportation issues and many have issues with moving back to the high school,” Struwe said. “They left the traditional school setting for a reason, and they don’t want to come back.”

According to students who attended the meeting, having a building of their own wouldn’t be an issue, as long as classes were during the day.

Kolesar said the district will continue to pay for space in St. Sebastian on a month-to-month basis until a “definitive decision is made,” because a contract has not been signed.

Struwe invited board members to visit the school and see how things were going.

“It’s really neat to see the kids learning,” Struwe said. “And they are really great kids.”

Safe Routes to School program

Ian Shackleford spoke to the board about progress being made with the Safe Routes to School program.

The committee is created an action plan featuring areas of structural improvement, educational aspects to get students involved, events to encourage kids to walk or bike to school and enforcing safety rules and regulations to ensure kids get to and from school safely.

Surveys were given to students earlier in the year, and 43 percent of students who took the survey were brought to school by a parent’s vehicle.

According to Shackleford, more than one-third of the students would like to walk or bike to school, with many wanting to walk or bike with friends.

For parents, a concern was with safety, including speeds of traffic on certain routes and cleared and updated sidewalks.

Shackleford asked the board to approve the action plan, allowing the committee to pursue grants to fund events, educational programs and improvements to sidewalks, crosswalks, signs, trails and other routes.

The committee is meeting Oct. 2 at the Ironwood Public Safety Department at 2 p.m. to discuss applying for grants.