A new alternative school program could soon be available.
The Board of Education unanimously voted to approve an alternative school program at its meeting Thursday night, Feb. 21. The program is expected to start in the fall.
The program would be for students in seventh through 12th grade, held at Trackside Teen Center. Assistant Superintendent of Special Services Andrea Leonardi has said around 25 students are expected the first year. This would include three to five middle school students and up to 20 high school students.
Leonardi said curriculum for the school will be based on the core standards of Wilton public schools’ curriculum.
“We know the bulk of our work lies ahead,” Leonardi said. “Tonight is just the beginning.”
Board member Deborah Low said she has personally wrestled with the proposal. She said she had some questions around the design of the program and if the district was ready to implement it. Another huge discussion point was the cost, Low said.
“It is a lot of additional staffing. It’s recurring,” she said. “This year is great to do it...but it’s going to impact us moving forward.”
Low said despite this she trusts the quality of the staff who worked to implement the program. She added it is important the program outlines the educational boundaries.
“Sometimes you get into areas that are not appropriate,” she said. “I got a good sense from the staff in terms of understanding those boundaries.”
Low said having the program so close to the high school also created a great synergy.
“If there does need to be a morning here or afternoon there for a class, there’s a lot of things that work on that level,” she said.
Hearing from the students and parents about the importance of the program was also impactful, Low said
“Those testimonies went a long way,” she said.
Another key aspect was the cost avoidance that could come from implementing the program, Low said.
“Kids could be served closer to home and avoid perhaps a lot more outplacements,” she said.
Despite these savings, she said she understood those who were concerned with the level of staffing. According to the proposed budget, the program is projected to cost $441,072 in its first year and would include the addition of three full-time equivalent teachers.
Low said after reviewing data that showed staffing in different categories over the last five years she felt more comfortable with the program.
“We still have fewer staff than we did in those categories five years ago,” she said. “I just think this program fits in addition to most importantly serving the needs of the kids.”
dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com