By Ernie Over, Wyotoday.com
The instructors at the Riverton High School Alt School said the biggest obstacle to overcome in helping students there become successful is overcoming fear of failure. “We spent a year in a professional learning community determining what we do, what we do well and establish goals to prepare more students to thrive in a tier-one environment, that is, back to a regular classroom,” said Alt School English Teacher Nick Esposito when addressing the Riverton School Board Tuesday night. “Our biggest finding was that the fear of academic and/or social failure is what holds kids back, so we want to to build on a no-fail situation.
Troy Anderson, the Alt School Social Studies instructor, said this year’s freshmen students, with intervention, have passed 71 percent of their classes. One of the reasons for that, he said, is that the school has piloted a new Freshman Cohort, where 10 students, spilt into groups of five each, go to core classes together as a unit.
Math instructor Phil Pierson said the school is using a “Hexoflex” model to keep the students moving through the curriculum and finding connections, building a foundation for them. The program reinforces goals of the program, he said.
“Pierson said the school uses “merit sheets” where the behaviors of each student in each class are tracked. He said the behaviors are such things as how students greet each other and the instructor and how they interact in the classroom, as an example. “The better the behaviors are, we’re able to incentivize them with credits that they can spend at the school’s store. Most of them use their credits on snacks, that’s the most popular thing,” he said. “By tracking the students week by week and month by month, we know their behaviors and can then implement interventions. It provides data we can use to keep the students on track and get them back to RHS.”
He said the goal of the Alt School is to get 80 percent of its students back into the regular classrooms at the high school.
The three instructors then teamed up to present Science Teacher Pamela Pince’s report. She was unable to attend Tuesday night, but the trio said Pince, and themselves, were quite proud of the number of Alt School students who graduate. As opposed to the general student population who get a diploma, in 2020 the Alt School had five graduates, five more in 2019, and seven students in 2018. Each year from five to seven of the students in the program, go back to RHS and graduate. The class of seniors at the Alt School is usually never more than seven or eight students, they said.
In action items at the meeting:
• Out-of-State travel requests were approved for the Key Club to travel to Denver in March for the Key Club District Convention; and, the RHS RMS Choir students were approved to travel to Spokane, WA, also in March, for the All Northwest Honor Choir event. The travels were approved per policy and following all COVID-19 Restrictions.
• RHS Principal John Griffith presented three new course proposals for his school, which were all approved. They are a geography class for incoming Freshman; The “Amp-ed” class which is a combination of Algebra and construction to enable students to use algebra in a work environment, and, a Healthy Recreation Course in coordination with NOLS in Lander to provide alternative and outdoors, wilderness experience during the summer for select students for safe recreation opportunities.
• Policy 1833 “Loss, Damage or Non-Return of District-Owned Technology,” was approved on first reading.
• A bid was awarded to Shepard Construction, Inc. of Rawlins for the Career Center Renovation and Tonkin Activity Center Remedy Projects. The bid was $835,500. The project has two funding sources, the Capital Construction Account and Major Maintenance funds.
• The resignation of RHS Math Teacher and Head Volleyball coach Amanda Nimmo was accepted for the end of the current school year.
• Contract offers were approved to Magdelene Alford as an RHS Agriculture teacher, Kylie Emerson for RHS Nurse effective March 14, and Alison Cougill for the RHS Alternative Program Science Teacher position.
Two executive sessions were held at the meeting, one to hear a parent’s complaint about bullying at RHS and the other for student discipline.