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New transformations coming in alternative education

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Department of Education superintendent Jon Fernandez took a trip down south this week to visit the island's only alternative education school. JP Torres School in Santa Rita is designed to meet the needs of at-risk youth. It accommodates students ages 12 to 18 years old who have not otherwise thrived in a traditional school setting.

Students are provided a structured environment with close supervision, counseling services, and greater parental and staff involvement."I had a conversation with the faculty and staff there to let them know what was going on in terms of planning for a new alternative program for our students," the superintendent detailed. "Like we said, in the past our mission is to get kids on track for college and career and the alternative school hasn't always fulfilled that function just by the way it's been set up."

Although many students see improvement while attending JP Torres, placements at the school are temporary, meaning students are eventually transferred back to their original schools. This can lead to recidivism. Fernandez argues that if students are thriving at JP Torres, they should have the opportunity to stay there. "We want to see JP Torres as a positive alternative pathway to graduation, and that means if you are in high school and you've fallen behind, for some reason you're not succeeding at your high school, you're a teen parent, you're struggling with family issues, that we want to give you an option that if it's not working, and we know it's not working, let's give you another way to get your credits to get the attention and environment that you need," said Fernandez.

DOE is looking to transform the school by having the middle school students supported at their home campuses, and focusing the high school program on credit recovery and graduation. He added, "We're looking at starting some of these changes in the coming school year so right now we're working through the federal grant application process to get some additional resources to bring to this challenge."

Fernandez said he hopes these changes will more effectively help these students succeed in the classroom and obtain their high school diplomas so that a better future will be available to them. 
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