East Hampton After-School Programs Get Upgraded

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Students who stay after school for extra help are likely to get more specialized attention this year, according to East Hampton School District officials.

The district is amping up both the high school’s alternative school and the elementary school’s homework club to serve more students and double up on academic support.

The alternative school, now called the Bonac Learning Center, helps high school students who’ve come up short with graduate requirements, among other problems.

The BLC will continue to offer coursework after regular school hours, during which alternative school students typically take their elective classes. Now, however, the center will use different teaching methods, including technology and targeted instruction based on individual need. For example, if a student needs help with reading, a variety of tools will be used, from online programs to extra attention from the BLC teachers.

According to Dr. Robert Hagan, the assistant principal at the school, the alternative school had been run like a traditional school where essential core classes were taught by a certified teacher. Last year, 30 to 40 students went through the program.

Gone are the days of the lecture, he said. Now, in a “blended learning environment,” students will work at their own pace and have the ability to achieve what they need to graduate, including credit recovery, test preparation, tutoring and a different learning environment. Dr. Hagan said the center would be able to help students pass courses they need to graduate and even help fifth-year students who need to simply pass their Regents tests to get their diplomas.

Coupling English as a second language support with tutoring, for example, will help cut down costs, according to Dr. Hagan. He said the school has budgeted $60,000 for this year’s alternative school, which would cost double that if not for blended learning.

“We are running the programs in a more efficient manner, which enables us to expand with the academic growth of our students,” he said.

High School Principal Adam Fine said the upgrade to the alternative school will also increase how many diplomas are obtained now that the school will be using alternative teaching methods.

“Taking into account that kids learn in different ways is essential—a lot of kids aren’t designed to achieve in an environment where they change periods every day and classes are 40-minute blocks,” he said.

The district is hoping to support around 100 students throughout the 2013-14 school year through the Bonac Learning Center, which will begin Monday, September 30.

At John Marshall Elementary School, the homework club, which has been around for years, is gaining a more structured format, according to Dr. Robert Tymann, the district’s assistant superintendent. The district is currently in talks with Project MOST, a non-profit after-school educational program, to help run the program.

Originally, the club was formed to help students with their work after school and was run by paraprofessionals.

“Now we’re trying to create more structure academically and provide more physical activity,” he said. “Project MOST is right there and a resource that we have in front of us.”

Dr. Tymann said Project MOST would hire certified teachers to actually help the students with their work and run the club according to a schedule.

“Maybe they’ll get 15 minutes of activity to get them relaxed and a snack, and then spend 20 minutes on homework,” he said. “They’ll have the help of licensed teachers in every room. I want this to really help the school meet the needs of the students.”

According to School Board President Patricia Hope, the district has budgeted $37,000 for the homework club this year.

There had been a rumor going around that the beloved club had lost its funding, but Ms. Hope said that rumor began when a letter about the club that typically goes out in the summer was not sent out this year because of a change in administration.

Dr. Tymann said the program will begin within the next couple of weeks.

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