Center in the works for at-risk students

ESCANABA – The Escanaba School Board has approved creating an Escanaba Virtual Career Center to replace the American Academy program for at-risk high school students. The action was taken during a special school board meeting Tuesday.

The new virtual career center will allow students who benefit from a non-traditional high school education to earn credit following the Michigan Merit Curriculum; students will be able to learn subjects at their own pace and build their capacity to be career-ready.

The program will be a blended learning opportunity combining online classes for students with direct instruction from certified teachers and internships at area businesses.

“We chose to explore a different option because we were looking for something that we thought would meet the needs of our kids so much better and I’m pleased to say that I think we’ve really found something that’s pretty special,” said Escanaba Superintendent Michele Lemire.

The new program involves a three-year partnership between Escanaba Area Public Schools and downstate Berrien Springs Public Schools, and comes at no cost to EAPS. Berrien Springs Public Schools’ Virtual Academy will provide all start-up costs, including an upgrade to the Wells School to serve as a drop in center for students using the program, and all the infrastructure and equipment needed to run the program.

Lemire noted the Escanaba Virtual Career Center is designed to provide flexible schedules and shared time opportunities for students to take electives at the high school and Delta-Schoolcraft Career Center, which would allow for Escanaba to retain some pro-rated state funding. Home schooled students are also welcome to enroll.

The center will employ a full-time director, full-time teacher and part-time teacher, hired locally.

At the end of the three-year agreement, Escanaba can choose to continue the partnership or run it independently of Berrien Springs.

“This would be a good program,” said Board President Jim Hermans. “No cost to our district, personnel’s going to come right out of the area here for the jobs that are going to be opening up…It’s a win-win for the Escanaba schools.”

The board unanimously approved implementing the Escanaba Virtual Career Center.