MINERAL POINT — When financial concerns threatened to derail an alternative school that draws students from several school districts in southwest Wisconsin, the Mineral Point School District took the program under its own wing.
It was a leap of faith that some viewed as a risky move, said Joelle Doye, spokeswoman for the district. But the program is now run by the school district, which receives fees from other school districts that send students there. The Mineral Point Alternative Program, formerly called the Renaissance School, was run for 10 years by Cooperative Educational Service Agency District 3, which received the fees. The program was and continues to be housed at the old Mineral Point high school building.
“From all accounts, the new endeavor is booming, and we are even outgrowing our current facility from the positive word spreading to districts about the great opportunities being offered for students not fitting into a traditional school setting,” Doye said.
The program is designed for students who are not finding optimal success in a traditional classroom, partly through greater flexibility to meet student needs. Students can earn credits in a variety of ways, including community-based learning and work experience.
Under the direction of teacher/coordinator Amanda Heisner, core classes are mostly taken online. With personalized educational plans, students can earn diplomas from their home high schools under their respective district’s graduation requirements. This year the students come from the Mineral Point, Dodgeville, Pecatonica, Shullsburg, River Ridge and Riverdale districts.
“It’s a lot to keep track of,” Heisner said about the personalized education for students in multiple districts.
Several students, including seniors Brittney Knapp and Bree Kieler, mentioned that they liked being able to work at their own pace. Knapp also said there is less bullying.
“The opportunity to graduate early is really nice,” said junior Jared Boies. “It’s fun.”
A local case manager, Heather Ringberg, teaches employment skills, which lean heavily on character development, in a class that’s supported by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
“It helps a lot if you don’t know how to change. Or if you have certain behaviors (it gets you to) think before you act,” senior Patrick Hoesly said about what he has learned.
Jeffrey Cone, who works in the Foster Grandparent program based in Dodgeville, also spends 15 hours each week helping students with their coursework and teaching “life lessons.” He particularly provides support to the two seventh-graders who are part of the program this year, although the school is typically geared to high schoolers.