- Associated Press - Sunday, January 21, 2018

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Fairbanks students who were floundering or disenfranchised with high school have found success in a pilot program that combines the freedom of home schooling with the socialization of traditional schools.

There are 80 students in Innovations Academy, which started last fall at Lathrop High School, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .

Lathrop Principal Carly Sween, who helped design the program, called it a “school within a school.”

The school is modeled after a program in Salt Lake City known as the Innovations Early College High School. The goal of the academy is to help students who are veering off course in high school to get back on the path to graduation.

Aaron Warrick, a senior, enrolled in the academy so that he could speed up his pace and take more classes than are offered via traditional high school, he said.

“I think a lot of time is wasted in regular classes,” he said. “I can cut a lot of that out. I like the flexibility. There is a lot of potential for me to get a lot of work done really fast.”

Each student has a mentor teacher who monitors their progress.

“We knew students would engage with online types of curriculum,” said Shaun Kraska, assistant superintendent for secondary education. “What data shows us is that it’s what kids are comfortable with. They are probably more comfortable with it than adults are.”

The academy’s 9-12 graders have access to electives offered at Lathrop, and they can continue to be part of the school culture by participating in after-school activities.

“I think of this as nice a combination of a home school program and a traditional school,” Sween said.

Classes are not semester-based. “They are done when the students are done,” Sween said.

Sween said she knows of students on track to graduate in May because of Innovations Academy.

“We are really seeing some huge improvements in motivations, confidence and skill building,” she said. “For some, this has made a huge difference.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com


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