Tuesday, 06 June 2023

Putting Students First: Giving families a voice and choice in their child’s education

Kelseyville Unified School District Superintendent Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – Regular classroom schooling is the best way for most students to get a great education, but it doesn’t work for everyone.

At Kelseyville Unified School District, we offer lots of options so all students have access to the kind of education that will help them be successful.

Sometimes students need an alternative to regular school because their personalities or emotional dispositions work better with smaller class sizes or even one-on-one instruction.

Other students who would usually thrive in a classroom setting can’t make it to school often enough because of outside commitments – competitive sports, careers in the arts, and things like that.

Finally, some students have family situations that make a regular classroom schedule all but impossible.

Alternative Education Director Tim Gill said, “Our goal is to help every student find a path that works for them. Sometimes, students and their families seek out alternative education opportunities; other times, behavioral issues or poor academic performance require us to make a change for a while.”

Kelseyville Learning Academy

One of the most exciting alternative education options is Kelseyville Learning Academy, or KLA, a homeschooling and independent study program available to students from kindergarten through high school.

At KLA, we work with families to create a tailored schedule and curriculum for each student that can be completed online or via a home-classroom environment – or a blend of the two.

KLA high-school students who want to participate in extracurricular activities or select classes at Kelseyville High School are free to do so, including sports, career technical education, band and more.

The element that sets KLA apart is that parents agree to take on the primary responsibility for developing the curriculum and teaching their students.

We provide support, of course, but KLA is primarily a home-schooling program. Our goal is to assure that the students’ course of study meets California state standards, so KLA students can graduate and either pursue higher education or the career of their choice.

Long-term independent study

Another popular option is long-term independent study. This is typically for middle- and high-school students, but is occasionally done with younger students.

In the long-term independent study program, a teacher and student work together to determine a course of study for a period of time (weeks, months or even the whole school year). The student then checks in with the teacher every couple weeks for support and guidance.

Every winter, between 50 to 100 students take advantage of this program when they travel to Mexico to visit extended family for a month or two.

In this case, the independent study teacher is in Michoacán near the towns where most students’ families live. Supporting students while they are away is a win-win: they stay up-to-date on their studies and we are able to keep them enrolled in school.

Community Day School

Sometimes, students need extra support, either academically or socially and emotionally. Every California school district is required to offer a community day school for students who fall behind on credits, are chronically absent, and/or who have been suspended or expelled.

When students are referred to the Community Day School, we work with them to create an individualized educational plan, or IEP. This includes a course of study done primarily online through a program called Odysseywear with a full-time teacher and full-time aide available for extra help.

The Community Day School offers coursework through the eleventh grade and is intended to be a place where students can get their feet back under them. It’s a place to get caught up and reset.

Before students return to the regular classroom, they must complete a rehabilitation plan created specifically to address whatever sent them to the Community Day School in the first place.

Rehabilitation plans include things like attending school 95 percent of the time, undergoing drug and/or alcohol counseling, receiving social-emotional support, participating in anger management classes, and things of that nature.

Once the student completes the plan, we review their progress and meet with them and their family to see if the student is ready to go back to regular school.

Ed Donaldson Education Center (continuation high school and adult school)

Students who are 16 years of age or older can either pursue a high school diploma from Kelseyville High School or, if family circumstances dictate, they can attend the Ed Donaldson Continuation High School.

Here, students attend school in the mornings and then go to work or take care of other responsibilities in the afternoons. They complete credits online via Odysseywear.

The Ed Donaldson Education Center also houses an adult school for those 18 years old and older. Anyone in the county can register for the Kelseyville Adult School to pursue their diploma or general education development, or GED, certificate.

Our adult school is part of a consortium through Mendocino College called Mendo-Lake Adult and Career Education or “ACE” (www.mendolakeace.org) with locations all over Lake and Mendocino Counties.

This wonderful program is designed for working adults, offering online coursework and weekly meetings with an instructor on Mondays from 4 to 7 p.m.

Through ACE, adults of all ages can earn a diploma or GED certificate and continue their educations from there. Last year, we had a 57-year-old student graduate.

It’s really heartwarming to see people fulfill their lifelong goal of earning a high school diploma. If you want to come and applaud our graduates, mark your calendars for June 10 at 7 p.m. at the Kelseyville High School Student Center.

Blending programs

And just to provide a few more options for students in grades ninth through 12th, those attending KLA, independent study or Ed Donaldson are welcome to take career tech and arts courses at Kelseyville High School.

Our CTE and arts program at Kelseyville High is fantastic and we invite kids at alternative schools to come to the high school and take advantage of all we have to offer.

When it comes down to it, we just want to make sure every student can succeed according to their own definition of success. If you think your student would benefit from an alternative education, call us here at the district and ask for Tim Gill, our alternative education director at 707-279-1511.

We’ll work with you to help your student thrive.

Dave McQueen is superintendent for the Kelseyville Unified School District.

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