An alternative classroom in Williston for struggling students is making a difference.
“I just knew we need to try something different,” says Williston Middle School Principal Duane Noeske.
So a year ago. Noeske proposed starting the alternative class. The class began at the start of this school year with about a dozen eighth graders.
‘To me, I’m trying to get them re-engaged in learning,” says Williston Middle School alternative teacher, Wyndy McGinley.
The class has a structured environment with room for some flexibility, such as non-traditional seating. McGinley also uses positive reinforcement and real-life examples as inspiration.
“I’m doing dances with they come to school. Because sometimes it’s really tough to get them to walk through the doors and to leave school with a smile on their face. Those were kind of my goals at first. I just need them here and to leave with a smile,” says McGinley.
Compared to the last school year, absences among the students have almost been cut in half. And the average alternative student has gone from 5 behavior logs to less than one.
McGinley acknowledges that while the students have improved, it’s been an uphill climb.
“To be real honest with you it’s a rollercoaster. Just when you think it’s up, something happens,” says McGinley.
And there is the question of what will happen to the students once they enter high school.
“There really isn’t a lot available for them,” says Pamela Lambert, assistant superintendent with Williston Public School District 1.
Williston’s alternative school is for students age 16 and older-
leaving a gap for the alternative students once they leave the eighth grade. But that could change.
“A continuation of what has been happening at the middle school this year would happen at the high school next year, we’re hoping,” says Lambert.
For now, the goal is to help the students to the point that they won’t need the alternative class anymore.
“I don’t know if I’ve made that difference yet. Bu thopefully down the road, hopefully these kids can look back and say hey, that helped. If I can just help one, it’s all worth it. That’s how I look at it,” says McGinley.
While the class might still be a work in progress, so far, it’s one that seems to be working.
Proposals on whether to implement similar programming at the high school are expected to be presented at the next board meeting in February.