Source: Sherman Publications

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Learning Options take over the CERC

by Meg Peters

September 18, 2013

The Learning Options Program of Lake Orion Schools has officially moved into the CERC building.

Eight years ago was the last time the program saw the CERC, as the past seven years they had a wing in the high school.

The overall sentiment: it is smaller, closer, and easier for the kids to get around.

"It is different from the high school, but I think it's way better because we are like an enclosed, tight family, and that's the good thing about Options," said senior Kaylan Miracle.

"I like it, it's cool, I don't know I just like it here, there's less people," said Dustin Hendersen, an eleventh grader, during independent study.

Sixty-four students of the possible 70 are currently enrolled.

Learning Options gives students an alternative pathway of attainting a diploma. It focuses on student's individual learning processes, with strong student-teacher relationships, while following the same guidelines and testing the high school does.

When looking at alternative programs in general, the district found Lake Orion's was one of the only programs in Oakland County that was housed within the traditional high school, a large motivator to move the program back to the CERC.

"One of the biggest reasons was getting the kids back over here to give them their own identity again," Drew Towlerton said, Coordinator of Educational Opportunities. "The building was so overwhelming, and the class sizes were so huge that when we could come back here we could really focus on keeping the class sizes really small."

At Lake Orion High School class size is capped at 34. At the CERC the number usually stays no more than 20 kids per teacher.

Before the students arrived, the building received a summertime facelift. The district supplied the CERC with all new tables and furniture, and will be installing projectors mounted to the four classroom ceilings for presentations and videos. New whiteboards have been erected in every classroom. Three out of four classrooms are fully equipped with computers, with future plans for a new laptop cart.

Also new to Options is the reduction in elective requirements to graduate. Up until this year students were required to earn 27 elective credits, which the district has dropped to 24 to align with other Oakland County districts.

"What we were finding for some of our kids is that they were meeting all the state of Michigan requirements, and some of the things that were hanging them up were the electives for getting them a diploma and getting them on to the next level," Towlerton said.

With this modified program, students still complete the Michigan Merit Program core area credits and complete fewer electives, which they can also take online.

Classes like gym or art can be taken at the high school on an individual basis, but everything from language classes to career oriented classes to health classes can all be taken online.

"It's very weird to say we offer gym online, but we can do that. It's very bizarre but we can," Tolwerton said. Student's track their own gym assignments with a log book.

Because many of the students in Options have such a diverse background, and because the current teaching staff is more focused and certified in the core area, "some of the electives options we had to get a little creative in how we were offering those," Towlerton said.

The independent study Henderson and Miracle were in is one of the biggest classes Options has ever had. Kids not only can choose from a long list of electives to focus in on, they can also focus on individual class work at their own pace.

"I think it's good for our learning options kids because they can have their own space and it also allows us to have more space at the high school," said Heidi Kast, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. "And it also gives us an opportunity to expand the Learning Options Program."