Not every student thrives in the atmosphere of a normal secondary school, but that doesn’t have to mean they can’t graduate. In Kimberley, the Kimberley Alternate School offers Grade 8 to 12 students social and emotional support in a small school setting. The program is having its most successful year ever in 2013-2014.
“We have about 35 alternate students this year,” said teacher Dan Clark. “That’s the most we’ve ever had. They are mostly at-risk kids but they come to our school for many reasons.”
The Kimberley Alternate School offers a normal academic course load, delivered differently. It’s is a full-time program with enrichment activities and field trips, and a transitional academic program.
The program offers healthy snacks, daily cardio workouts, regular field trips, career prep and work experience opportunities to students. One of the key elements of the close-knit community of full-time students is the expectation that students participate fully in all activities.
“There are group courses and self-based courses they work on alone,” Clark said. “We have a high staff to student ratio.”
Last week the students had an opportunity to visit the new Spirit Rock Climbing Centre in Kimberley’s Platzl.
“One of the things that really stands out with these kids is that they don’t have the same opportunities as other kids to do things. We try to do a lot of healthy, lifestyle activities. We are lucky in our community to have so many opportunities for healthy field trips. We have the Nature Park we can hike to right from the school. The Kimberley Alpine Resort is very supportive of our program. The climbing wall we were really excited about. It was another opportunity and it was indoors. Some of these kids are just outside after school, with nowhere else to go.”
Clark said it was fascinating to watch the kids at the climbing wall urging each other on.
“Some of these kids have really tough lives but they were cheering each other. There was so much support and encouragement of each other.”
He says taking the students to places like the climbing centre offers great learning experiences.
“You need trust and leadership in climbing. There are so many great character skills involved in getting to the top of that climb. These are kids who are pretty hard to excite and they were excited that day.”
The school creates a strong community for the kids, a place with structure and support.
“The structure is really key,” Clark said. “There is a reward system for being there but we have high expectations of them. No lates. The doors are locked once class starts and they do rise to the challenge.”
Graduation rates are rising at the school and Clark says younger students learn from seeing the older ones succeed.
For more information on the Alternate School see http://www.sd6.bc.ca/kas/