Local school districts endorse proposed charter academy.

September 30, 2014

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

LUDINGTON — A new charter school is being proposed with the endorsement of all school districts in Mason, Oceana and Lake counties. During a press conference Tuesday morning, the West Michigan Educational Leadership Group, along with local public school districts, West Shore Educational Service District and West Shore Community College, announced the creation of Gateway to Success Academy, also to be known as G2S Academy.

The academy, which is currently in the planning stages, recently received a $100,000 planning grant through the Michigan Department of Education. If created, the school will provide what is being described as innovative project-based learning options for students in grades 6 through 12. One of the emphasis of the academy will be to provide what has traditionally been known as alternative education. It will replace the current Journey School, located on U.S. 10-31 in Amber Township. However, its services and student population will be expanded.

Mason County Central Superintendent Jeff Mount talked about the history of alternative education in the area.

“Mason County Central has been in the alternative education system for over 30 years,” Mount said. “We started with Dunes. Then an opportunity came to collaborate with Ludington, which had a program known as Connections. That morphed into Journey and focused on providing educational needs to an underserved population of students. In the meantime, Oceana High, the alternative program in Oceana County, dissolved leaving a population of students to go find their own way. They are services, to a certain extent, in a program in northern Muskegon County.”

G2S will be much more, however, then just alternative education.

Jamie Bandstra, principal of Journey High School, serves as the president of the West Michigan Educational Leadership Group. He said innovated learning will provide students with a new approach to education.

“G2S Academy will provide a unique project-based learning option within our local public school system that provides increased supports and avenues for student success,” Bandstra said. “The model will have an increased capacity to individualize instruction based on the learning needs of students and will allow students to uniquely interact with the curriculum through the development of real-world applications. A strong emphasis will be placed on the development of 21st century skills and preparing students for the workplace.”

Board members said the location of the building will be in the Scottville or Ludington areas. Much of that is based on the ability to provide transportation services to students and also access to West Shore Community College.

“The collaborative support of the district superintendents assures that transportation will be provided through existing daily routes from school districts to the (West Shore ESD) Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs housed at West Shore Community College,” a press release stated.

Bandstra said the initial enrollment will likely be around 125; Journey currently enrolls about 115 students. Longer term enrollment goals would be around 200, he said. Journey would no longer operate if the academy is created.

The board currently has applied for a $250,000 grant from the state that would help provide funds to implement the program over a two-year period.

The program would not be funded by local tax dollars. Instead, it will seek assistance from “community partners” to help with infrastructure costs; most likely the program will lease a building.

One of those community partners is likely the Pennies from Heaven Foundation of Ludington. John Wilson, founder of the foundation, said the foundation’s goals are to help meet the community’s greatest needs. Wilson said once planning is in place, the foundation will give greater consideration in assisting the program.

Per-pupil funding, provided through state sales tax revenue, will also assist in operational costs of the academy. This will mean a potential loss to local school districts.

Mount said the loss is part of the price of operating schools, though, emphasizing that the school districts’ goal is to provide quality education for all students.

The target start date of the school is September 2015 or September 2016, depending on funding.


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