ELGIN — Elgin High School has a new satellite campus, one already boosting the academic orbit of some students.
The new campus is the home of Elgin High School’s alternative school. The school, which is in its first year, is for students who have different learning styles and may not succeed in a traditional educational setting. Elgin School District Superintendent Dianne Greif said the alternative school is already making a difference.
“It is off to a wonderful start. Students are having success who had not had success before,” Greif said.
The alternative school is based in the school district’s former administrative office building on 15th Street, a block north of Elgin High School. The building’s interior decor has been changed to give it a warmer feel and appearance. It is filled with comfortable stuffed chairs, a stylish expansive chalkboard upon which empowering quotes are written, decorative walls and wax burners that provide a comforting scent.
All this is designed to create a welcoming environment.
“We want this to be a place they can call home,” said Cortney Chagas, the alternative school’s teacher.
The alternative school serves 37 students. Some attend school all day and many others come in to take advantage of the services it offers. These include students who take classes online via a new program provided by the Intermountain Education Service District. Some students take all of their courses online while others come for credit recovery. Credit recovery students are making up courses they took previously but did not pass at Elgin High School. Those coming to the alternative school also include home school students who are taking some classes via the internet and need assistance.
A number of students in the alternative school are among EHS’s brightest. They include a sophomore who is taking Eastern Oregon University classes online that also earn him Elgin High School credits, Chagas said.
All students work on their own at their own pace, but their progress is closely monitored by Chagas. Each Monday she gives every student a progress report. This provides the students with inspiration to keep pace.
“They know I will show them how they are doing,” she said.
Chagas strives to keep students on track while maintaining a relaxed and welcoming environment that offers camaraderie.
“This is a safe spot (where) they know they will not be judged,” Chagas said.
Freshman Jacob Devin is among the students who is benefiting from the opportunity to come to the alternative school each day.
“I get to set my own pace without teachers forcing me to work at their pace,” Devin said.
Elgin High School Principal Rob Shell is impressed with how students are taking to the new alternative school. These students include one boy who did not feel comfortable in a regular classroom setting.
“This is the happiest I have seen him in a long time,” Shell said.
Shell credits this to the work of Chagas, whom he said is an ideal person to lead the new school because she has a background in mental and behavioral health. He said she has a perfect blend of empathy and leadership.
“She is friendly but very professional,” he said. “She is doing a great job of getting students up to speed.”
The principal said he is pleased with the way Chagas is able to connect with the students and address their individual needs, which is what the alternative classroom is designed for.
“They need different structure and freedoms,” Shell said.