Pickerington Alternative School provides educational options


By Lori Smith
Staff Writer

Not every student learns in the same way, and Pickerington Alternative School graduating senior

Photo courtesy of Pickerington schools
Tyler Arnold, administrator of Pickerington’s alternative school, stops to chat with student Elizabeth Glanzman. The school allows students to work in small groups at their own pace and utilizes a rigorous online curriculum personalized to the learner.

Selina Duran says she is proof of that.

“It really helped me a lot,” she told the Pickerington Board of Education at their April 23 meeting. “It made me excited to come to school.”

Duran said she grew up hating school, and after attending the alternative school for four years she now she has a 3.6 grade point average, as well as work experience.

“I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she said. “It’s been a really good opportunity to learn, and to learn at your own pace.”

The program transitioned from a community school to an alternative school in 2011, and on the 2016 state report card the program either met or exceeded standards, explained Assistant Superintendent Bob Blackburn as he introduced a presentation on the alternative school. This year they have 129 students enrolled, and it works as both a dropout prevention and a credit recovery school. Both Pickerington Central and Pickerington North students in grades 9-12, aged 16-21, are able to receive credit. There are two sessions: from 7-11 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students have access to the program’s resources 24 hours a day.

Tyler Arnold is the administrator of the program, and he said students take one to two classes at a time, which allows them to focus and curbs anxiety.

“We really try to chip away at the process and help them feel comfortable,” Arnold said.

Traditional classrooms aren’t used; instead, students are encouraged to move around and approach teachers at any time.

“Anytime a student has a question or needs support they walk right up to that table and work with them one-on-one,” said Arnold.

Pickerington Alternative School students are there for many reasons: they may be diverse learners, parents, self-motivated, credit deficient, accelerated, dropouts, returning students, or have attendance, social, emotional or medical concerns, Arnold said.

The program also works hand-in-hand with the Career Based Intervention program (formerly OWA/OWE), which allows the students to gain real-world work experience, explained Michelle Sawyer, who works with the program. She said 73 of the 129 students in the alternative school have jobs as part of the program, and they earn elective credit through their work.

“They work in all different areas,” she said, “From fast food and retail to warehouse jobs. I even had a farrier once.”

The students also study college and career preparation, where they learn employability and life skills and hear from guest speakers. They also do college tours and learn about financial aid options.

In the future, Arnold said, Pickerington Alternative School’s focus will be to continue to make school an enjoyable experience. They have started by adding a splash of color to the walls, and a colorful new wall of college pennants has students thinking about the future and asking questions. The addition of a hall of fame of former students builds a legacy and tradition of past success stories, he added.

“Pickerington Alternative School is not a punishment,” he said. “It is an honor to be in our school and we expect greatness from our staff and students.”

In fact, Arnold said, there is a wait list of 10-20 students at this point, and he only expects it to grow from here.

In other school board news, the board unanimously voted to purchase a school bus for $85,641 and entered into a closed executive session to discuss negotiations regarding the teacher contract, which expires this summer. No action was taken after the closed session.

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