Non-traditional education, online learning, and customization ... what do you think of when you hear these words?
For many students in Mifflin County, this meant leaving the district to attend a charter school, cyber-charter school or participate in home-schooling. There wasn't any other option until last fall.
Mifflin County School District's Alpha program was first discussed by a group of administrators in the spring of 2013. After researching and visiting other districts that had similar programs, the Alpha program opened in the fall.
JV Family photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Hannah Bishop, right, and her father John, fill out paperwork with Instructor Hope Palm to sign Hannah up for the Alpha program with the Mifflin County School District.
Throughout the year, Alpha grew by leaps and bounds. Six Pa.-certified secondary school teachers have joined the Alpha faculty to work with students. Teachers provide online support, individual and group instruction and act as a point of contact between parents and students' home schools.
Alpha students are eligible to complete all their classes online or organize a hybrid schedule that incorporates classes at brick and mortar buildings, programs offered at the academy, co-op education, dual enrollment and internships.
Alpha students remain MCSD students and are permitted to participate in all athletics, programs and events. Upon completion of graduation requirements, Alpha students participate in the MCHS commencement ceremonies and receive a MCHS diploma.
The student population of Alpha is just as diverse as its educational offerings. College-bound students, students with learning needs, teen mothers and fathers, students who suffered a loss of a family member, students who had previously dropped out of high school, students who have to work to help support their families, students who needed to recover a class they failed in prior years and students who wanted a class but couldn't fit it into their schedule at the home school - all are able to get the support they need to stay in school.
By the end of the first year, 184 students had participated in the Alpha program. 56 seniors were enrolled in Alpha and graduated with their class. 161 students were regular education students, while 23 received learning support services.
Via returning students from charter and cyber-charter schools outside the district and effectively preventing students from leaving to attend outside programs, Alpha prevented approximately one mill of tax revenue from leaving Mifflin County. The creation of the Alpha program not only benefits students, but fiscally benefits our community as well.
Mifflin County School District's Alpha program is currently accepting applications for the 2014-15 school year. Applications are available online, at any guidance office or at the Alpha program office, 700 Pitt St., Lewistown. The office phone number is 447-2655.