Students finding success at Spartan Academy.

February 24, 2016
Teacher Christine Justice helps out a student.

Teacher Christine Justice helps out a student.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — When Journey High School closed its doors at the end of last school year, Mason County Central Schools formed Spartan Academy, offering an alternative program of its own. Enrollment in the year-round program has exceeded school officials’ expectations and they have plans to continue the program.

“When Journey announced it was closing its doors, we needed to have a place for those students who lived in the MCC school district who were having trouble succeeding in mainstream education,” said MCC High School Principal Brad Jacobs.

Student Andrew Stakenas takes an online class.

Student Andrew Stakenas takes an online class.

Journey was a joint operating venture between MCC and Ludington Area Schools, however it was administered by Ludington, which made the choice to shut the program down. The closing came a year ahead of the opening of a charter school, Gateway to Success, that will also provide services to those alternative education students. That school will be located just down the road from MCC’s campus, on North Main Street.

There are currently 29 students enrolled in Spartan Academy. Of those, eight are seniors with five of them expected to graduate at the end of the school year. Jacobs said the majority of the current underclassmen have indicated they plan to stay in Spartan Academy next year or return to the regular high school.

“Our program is a little more structured than Journey was, which we think many of the students appreciate,” Jacobs said.

The program is overseen by John Chalko, MCC high school’s student success specialist/assistant principal. He said Spartan Academy students need to follow the school’s student handbook but there are some flexibility with classroom etiquette, such as allowing the wearing of hats and having food and drink in the room.

“This is basically a school within a school,” Chalko said.

Spartan Academy is located in a dedicated classroom at the high school. A majority of the student’s work is done online; students have the option to take their online classes at the school or off campus. Teacher Christina Justice also lectures in English literature and creative writing daily and the students also have dedicated physical education time. Several of the students also chose to participate in the West Shore Educational Service District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program located on the campus of West Shore Community College.

“Our program is considered by the state as a ‘dropout recovery’ program,” Jacobs said. “This means we are allowed to do some things different and it is also funded differently than the mainstream school.”

While the school receives the same per-pupil funding as the mainstream school, the funding is done on a monthly basis. Since it is a year-round program, the district receives funding year-round as well. Students have to make a monthly progress of 30% completion in order to be counted for state funding.  If they do not make the required amount they are put on probation for the next month. If the student doesn’t complete adequate progress for the second month, the school does not receive funding for that student who then has to drop out of the program.

Holding Spartan Academy has meant students like sophomore Andrew Stakenas, has been able to stay in school.

“I went to the regular high school and really slacked off,” Andrew said. “I ended up in this program to help myself get caught up a little bit. It actually has helped me quite a bit.”

Andrew said his goal is to get back into the regular high school program. He said he enjoys science and world history but isn’t a fan of math or English.

“Spartan Academy has allowed Andrew to get back on track,” Chalko said. “Ms. Justice and I meet with him regularly and make sure he continues to progress towards his goal of getting back in the regular high school.”

Junior David Garland just moved into the school district within the last month. He said he was falling behind in his classes at Ludington High School and that Spartan Academy has allowed him to stay more focused. “There’s a lot less distraction for me,” he said. “I’m not messing around with my friends in the classroom like I did at my previous school.”

Garland said he also would like to attend the regular high school and has plans of joining the military after graduation.

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